With poll day approaching fast in Karnataka one can surely expect a keenly contested battle. Parties are on an overdrive, but ironically nobody is talking of development or redressing problems that continue to daunt the state.
While the Congress has been screaming from roof-tops about its plan to distribute free sarees, rice and televisions, the Bharatiya Janata Party is only talking of the great betrayal meted out by their former coalition partner the Janata Dal-Secular.
The JD-S, on its part, says no party will be able to form the government without its blessings and it would continue to play king maker in Karnataka like it did the last time.
The rest of the parties are only talking in terms of eating into the vote banks of the major players. They talk of caste equations and are even fielding candidates on that basis.
So, is this what Karnataka is about? What are the key issues daunting this state? Looking at the way the netas (leaders) are talking, it seems the state is problem free. But it's not.
Dr Samuel Paul, former director of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and chairman of Bangalore-based NGO Public Affairs Committee, lists out four problems that need to be addressed immediately.
Regional imbalance, water and power crisis are the key issues in Karnataka, Dr Paul told rediff.com.
"In Karnataka, we face a problem of lopsided economic development. Development has been occurring only in places like Bangalore and Mysore. Half the state revenue is being generated from these two cities and hence, the attention is more on these cities," Dr Paul said.
A major chunk of the population of Karnataka is spread across the state and sadly the other parts of state especially the North of Karnataka remains underdeveloped. If this issue is not addressed, then migration into Bangalore will increase and slowly but surely the city will not be able to accommodate any more people, as a result of which the capital will have no place, he added.
A High Power Committee for redressal of regional imbalances had been set up to study this issue. Around four years ago, it had made several recommendations. The report had stated that at least Rs 31,000 crore had to be spent in the northern part of Karnataka to address this issue.
However, four years down the line the report has not been implemented and none of the political parties in their agenda for the polls even speak about it.
Everybody in Karnataka is aware that this year Karnataka would reel under a terrible water crisis. Reports with the government suggest that at least 175 taluks in Karnataka will face a water crisis.
Sanjay Shastry, an advocate specializing in Public Interest Litigation told rediff.com that this is another issue, which needs to be addressed by the politicians who come to power.
He says that none of the parties seem to be addressing this issue during their poll campaign. For them, it is the only the Cauvery crisis that will fetch them votes. They had seen a ray of hope when the Hogenakkal issue had become hot, but that was diffused.
More than Cauvery water, the government needs to redress the drinking water problem of the common man.
Several parts of North Karnataka have not witnessed proper rainfall this year and hence the problem of drinking water is only going to increase. Worse, this area is completely dependant on agriculture and this area needs to be addressed.
Another problem that is daunting the people of North Karnataka is the failure of the cotton crop. No party has till date announced a support price or has even spoken about this issue.
Karnataka at present has 15 per cent shortage of power. Although most of the power is being consumed by Bangalore, electricity companies cannot shut of power in the capital.
This is because Bangalore accounts for 40 per cent of the revenue of the state and shutting off power during peak hours would mean a revenue loss. As a result, the other parts of the state will have to remain in darkness for at least 6 hours a day so that Bangalore is not disrupted.
While these are the problems that the state faces, Bangalore too has its share of problems. Dr Paul points out that none of the political parties have a plan chalked out for Bangalore. With almost 8000 sq kilometers being added on to Bangalore thus calling it Greater Bangalore, the sad part is that the city does not have a plan.
No party even states during the campaign the plan it has for Greater Bangalore. This is a key area that needs to be addressed, Dr Paul points out.