Bangalore: Some of Karnataka’s senior-most policemen are giving up khaki for khadi, keeping alive a trend in the state where lawmen jump onto the political bandwagon.
Most Indian politicians sport handmade cotton (khadi) garments.
Last week, Karnataka’s additional director general of police Subash Bharani became the latest in a growing list of police officers who have quit from the force so as to contest the coming elections to the state assembly. Bharani hopes to contest from T. Narsipura, a constituency in Mysore district reserved for scheduled castes, on a Congress ticket.
Public service: Additional DGP Subash Bharani resigned from the force last week to contest the assembly elections in Karnataka.
In December, three police officers, K.C. Ramamurthy, B.K. Shivaram and M.D. Diwakar resigned, hoping to start a fresh career in politics.
The resignations do not come as a surprise to political analysts here. Karnataka’s policemen have always had a fascination for politics.
In the last assembly elections in 2004, six former police offers were in the fray, including two who had retired as director generals of police (DGPs), one of the highest positions in the force. One of the contestants, C. Channigappa, a former police constable, went on to become a minister in the H.D. Kumaraswamy cabinet.
“In a democracy, you cannot prevent anybody from contesting elections, but if somebody has political ambitions while in service, there would be a conflict of interest,” said S. Trilochan Sastry, a faculty member of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and chairman of the Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO.
One former policeman who has made a successful career in politics said the shift isn’t easy.
“Politics is not a bed of roses,” said H.T. Sangliana, a Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament (MP) from Bangalore North who defeated veteran politicians and former Union ministers C.K. Jaffer Sharief and C.M. Ibrahim in the 2004 parliamentary elections. Sangliana, who retired as DGP in 2003, was a former police commissioner of Bangalore City.
“How many of these policemen (who contested elections) have won?” he asked, and added that it is difficult to win an election, especially in urban areas.
“It’s fine if you have a social mission, but it will be unfortunate if you have a personal agenda,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bharani justified his desire to quit the police force.
“Elections are held every five years. So, if I were to wait till retirement, it will be another four years (before I can contest an election),” he added. He was set to retire in 2009.
“The issue here is a matter of principle. There should be some kind of a cooling-off period for government servants for about three to five years after retirement,” Trilochan Sastry said.
L. Revannasiddaiah, a retired DGP who lost to Karnataka’s former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah in the 2004 assembly elections, said it was surprising that people found it strange that policemen should want to become politicians. “There are people going to politics from other professions as well,” he added.
“People like me who retired from service are just rededicating our abilities to social work rather than pursuing a business or just spending time at home,” he said.
Another policeman who quit the police force to first become an actor in Kannada movies and then entered politics said policemen have what it takes to become politicians.
“We are in contact with people all the time while in service, and so it’s not a great challenge,” said B.C. Patil, who won a seat in the 2004 assembly elections.
“It’s harder to be a politician than a policeman because the undercurrents and changes are many,” added Revannasiddaiah.