The rule of Krishna

Much has been said about the unimpressive scorecard of the BJP's first government in southern India. For another aggressive, united opposition party, that might have offered the perfect opening. But in Karnataka, the opposition Congress has hardly covered itself in glory. The assembly elections are around the corner in 2013 and it might turn out to be a neck-and-neck race between the tame and the undistinguished.

Given this backdrop, the fuss over the Bangalore homecoming of S.M. Krishna after his New Delhi stint as India's external affairs minister was interesting. The former chief minister received a hero's welcome on his return. The airport spilled with slogan-shouting, garland-sporting Congressmen. Supporters packed into cars and SUVs behind Krishna's motorcade and caused the mother of all traffic jams, stretching some 25 kilometres from the airport to his home.

It is a reappearance for Krishna, who left Karnataka politics in 2004 after his chief ministership ended. Since then, the Congress, for most part, has been warming the Opposition benches in the state. Krishna, meanwhile, became a member of the Rajya Sabha, the governor of Maharashtra and, most recently, India's external affairs minister.

A section of the Congress is now pushing for Krishna's return to active state politics, but in a more statesmanlike avatar. Karnataka Congress President G. Parameshwara declared that he wants Krishna to lead the state Congress back to power to "restore Bangalore's glory".

Krishna had a good run in Karnataka after he led the Congress to victory and then ruled five years as chief minister. His term coincided with Bangalore's rise as a global technology centre. The urbane, US-educated Krishna was a hit amongst multinational CEOs in Bangalore and visiting foreign trade delegations.

Krishna quickly became the political face of a modern Bangalore. His influence over Karnataka's rural masses has been questionable. But his sway over the urban middle class was undisputed. Krishna's biggest contribution to Bangalore was a pioneering public-private partnership to run the city. With his clout, the chief minister drafted corporate heavyweights, like Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon and Nandan Nilekani of Infosys, to actively participate in Bangalore's progress.

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