Golden South – Technocrats v/s Film Stars

Sir M Vishweshvaraya is like an elderly member in the family for the people in old Mysore region in Karnataka. He died decades before I was born. But I knew so much about him when I was just 6 or 7 years old. Because my mother, father, grandmother and other seniors in the family used to tell us colorful stories about Sir MV’s life, brilliance, brutal honesty, great public works he has done to the state and so many other real and ‘ fictional ‘ things related to his life.

He was a folk hero and a cult figure. He was loved and respected by the old and young, literate and illiterate, rich and poor alike.

Even the illiterate labourers in our estates knew so much about him… They would discuss about Sir MV with a lot of reverence and innocence…. For them he was a synonym for honest and genius people.

Even today most of the houses in South Karnataka have a photo of Sir MV in their drawing room. Some of them have kept his photo inside their pooja room.

For the people living outside Karnataka, mainly in the north all these things may sound strange. They may not even believe it.

After all who will worship an engineer, statesman in this world full of glitz and glamour?

Truly Sir MV is an exception. Perhaps he is the only technocrat in India who became a folk hero, cult figure and a divine character during his own lifetime.

Sir MV, who gave the famous slogan ‘ Industrialize or perish ‘ to Mahatma Gandhi has achieved so much during his stint as the Dewan of Mysore Kingdom.

Asia’s first hydel project, India’s first land irrigation, gold mining, iron and steel factory, university, engineering, medical colleges, planned development of Bangalore and Mysore cities. Not one or two. The list is endless.

His personal integrity and foresight brought him close to people. He did everything with a human face. He always to tried to reach out to the poorest of the poor and needy. Being a technocrat it is easy to become a corporate hero or a business hero. But it is very difficult, almost impossible to become a people’s hero…Sir MV achieved that impossible thing.

When he was voted as the most popular Kannadiga in CNN IBN, Deccan Herald, Radio City poll, people living outside Karnataka were surprised. I am sure majority of them don’t even know who he is. It is quiet natural. Sir MV who lived for over hundred years, died 44 years back!

But for the Kannadigas who preferred him to the glamour of cinema and cricket and the hype of IT, he was an obvious choice. Perhaps the best. Personally I am least surprised about the result.

I would like to say one more interesting thing here. If Five others from Karnataka in the fray (Rajkumar, Narayanamurthy, Kumble, Gangubai and Nijalingappa) were asked to vote, all of them would definitely have voted for Vishweshvaraya.

The poll conducted by us to identify the most popular personalities of four southern states has shed lights on so many interesting things. It has succeeded in dispelling many myths about south and its choice.

Both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have voted for the technocrats (Sir MV and APJ Abdul Kalam). But most surprisingly Kerala, voted for film star Mohan Lal. Many of us were expecting a victory for EMS or P T Usha in the land of comrades. True to its tradition, Andhra Pradesh voted for its hero N T Ramarao.

Film stars Rajkumar and Rajanikanth have secured second place in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The margin between first most popular persons and these film stars is really big. Mammoty also secured second place in Kerala. Same is the case with A.P. Chiranjeevi got second place.

What does it signify? Are Karnataka and TN moving towards technology and governance from the glitz and glamour of Cinema and Sports? Where do AP and Kerala stand?

Karnataka voted another great technocrat N R Narayanamurthy of Infosys to third place. But he was voted substantial number of votes (19%).

Ramalingaraju who is often described as Bill Gates of India got very few votes. A.P, which is fighting a pitched battle with its neighbour Karnataka in the field of IT, chose to place reel heroes, above real heroes.

But the performance of the sports personalities in the poll in all four states is really shocking. One of the greatest Cricketers of our times Anil Kumble was pushed to fifth place in Karnataka. P T Usha secured fourth place in Kerala.

Young sensation Sania Mirza also secured fourth position in Andhra Pradesh. Grand master Vishwanathan Anand was pushed to last place in Tamil Nadu.

I have a great admiration for these sport stars. But the people’s choice has left a question mark over their real popularity.

South, which has produced more than 60% of the best sports personalities in the country, has disappointed its men and women in sports…

The brutally honest and visionary politicians like S Nijalingappa of Karnataka, EMS of Kerala and Periyar of TN have also failed to impress the people.

While Periyar got more than 20% of the votes, shockingly S Nijalingappa and EMS got very few votes….

I would not be wrong, if I say that the poll has proved that technology and film are the two most important things for the people in the South.

Sports, politics, music etc are much below these two things.

We must not forget that it was a sample poll in which just about 2.5 lakh people voted.

Certainly it won’t represent the opinion or choice of everybody. And facts like voting, often do not support assessment of a personality in clear black and white or good and bad terms.

But one thing is certain. The poll has initiated a new debate over southern heroes.