The crows that haunt Siddaramaiah

For the helmsman for the anti-superstition law and a self-proclaimed rationalist, it is nothing short of an irony that Siddaramaiah gets associated with the superstitious element time and again.

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For a man who has time and again claimed to be a rationalist, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah sure is haunted - by crows that is. In the past, it was a baby crow perched on his car that made the news and this time it is a crow defecating on the CM's clothes in Kerala that has generated a buzz. Although the crow saga was often revisited each time the chief minister went through hard times, Siddaramaiah remained bound to his stipulated belief. However, the record shows that his is not a consistent relationship with rationalism; rather a dance with political neccesities whence he finds himself.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah

Rationally irrational

It may be recalled that while most politicians take their oath in the name of God, Siddaramaiah chose to swear on the 'truth', a move that was much hailed by rationalists. Within months of him assuming office, he defied the long-standing superstition attached to Chamarajanagar and broke the 'jinx' by visiting the place not once but six times. He ridiculed the notion that a visit to the town augurs bad luck to incumbents who end up losing their office.

Siddaramaiah even passed a resolution in the state assembly during the Raahu Kaala, traditionally believed entaitling inauspiciousness. He was one of the few politicians who publicly stated that he would rather seek blessings from authors, freedom fighters and intellectuals than from seers and purported godmen.

Although the long pending anti-superstition act never saw the day of light, it was hailed by rationalists across the state. On his social networking pages, Siddaramaiah even lamented about how he was unable to go ahead with the act due to vested interests. He stopped short of naming the lobby that had stymied the bill.

The Opposition taunted Siddaramaiah in 2014 for was asking Girish Karnad to inaugurate the Dusshera festivities. A non-believer, Girish Karnad, being chosen to inaugurate the event didn't go down well with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

A facade of unbelief

Days after his son's death, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was seen carrying lemons with him. The lemon wielding raised questions on whether Siddaramaiah was still committed to rationalism. The CM had then said that friends from the Muslim community had handed him the lemons to help him be at peace after his son's death. The moment the lemons caught the media gaze, the CM got rid of them.

Even before the 2013 Karnataka assembly polls, a lot of religious ceremonies being held at Siddaramaiah's residence were reported. While his supporters brushed them aside as family affair, rumours of those homas and poojas aimed at ensuring chief ministership to Siddaramaiah ran thick and fast.

For a chief minister who put rationalists and writers on a higher pedestal than seers, very little was done by the Siddaramaiah government to bring justice to the family of slain rationalist Dr M M Kalburgi. Two years since his murder, his assailants have not been brought to justice. Many claimed that the attack on Kalburgi was an attack on rational, reformist and free thinking in the state. Yet, nothing concrete was done to speed up the probe. While the state government said that the case would be handed over to the CBI, nothing to that effect happened and the case continues to be with the Karnataka CID.

The chief minister was hounded for replacing his official car after reports of a crow sitting on it emerged. While the media criticised the move as superstitious, the chief minister maintained that the replacement was long overdue and that the crow had nothing to do with the changing of the car. He also added that his old car had run well over three lakh kilometres thanks to his constant travelling and had been used for three long years. While some were convinced of his justification, many chose to believe that superstition had a role to play in it.

Every dissidence in the Congress government, every rebellion was time and again linked to the crow-on-car incident. News channels in Karnataka hosted special shows with astrologers attempting to infer what crow sitting on the CM's car meant. A rebellion over cabinet inclusion started to brew in the Congress and this was attributed to Siddaramaiah 'bad time' after the crow incident. While the CM laughed off the reports, the references to superstition never stopped.

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