Cameras in the chief minister’s office. A grievance cell in his home workplace. Gowda means business.
By Sowmya Aji
He believes he is like Mahendra Singh Dhoni: elevated to the top job and hoping to win the big Cup—read the next Assembly elections. Unlike Dhoni, who could deliver when needed most, Karnataka’s new Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who will complete a 100 days in office on November 13, has inherited a scam-tainted team from predecessor B.S. Yeddyurappa. The former chief minister has managed to remote-control government functioning from jail even before his release on November 8. Cabinet colleagues and Opposition leaders acknowledge the fact that Gowda is going out of his way to achieve transparency but everyone thinks he has a tough task on hand.
Known as ‘the ever smiling’, Gowda gives his trademark grin and claims he is Captain Cool. “I am not aggressive as I used to be. I used to roll up my sleeves, wear black pants. Now I keep my cool. And I stick to my white shirt and cream trousers,” he says.
The Chief Minister is aware of his limitations. “I have told Datty (his wife) not to unpack all our boxes in the chief minister’s house. I don’t know how long I would remain there,” he adds.
Gowda, the first non-mla to become Karnataka chief minister, has adopted a style of functioning distinct from ‘mentor’ Yeddyurappa. The day he took the oath of office, August 4, Datty and his engineer son Karthik told the media, “We will never interfere in administration as long as he is the Chief Minister.” This was a public jibe at Yeddyurappa, whose sons’ and son-in-law’s shenanigans contributed to his being jailed.
About a week into his chief ministership, Gowda announced that he would take the train and the road to travel all over Karnataka instead of using the helicopter, a promise he has largely kept so far. Yeddyurappa had actually listed his over 2 lakh km of travel, almost always by helicopter, as an “achievement” of his government. The Chief Minister also took off Yeddyurappa’s photograph from am- bulances run by the centrally funded 108 service, Arogya Kavacha, and directed health officials on September 26 not to replace that photograph with his own, saying, “It is a public health service, not an advertisement for the chief minister.” His photographs, however, are up on government boards for various other projects, displacing Yeddyurappa.
On the surface, however, Gowda scrupulously toes Yeddyurappa’s line. He has not changed a single staffer at the chief minister’s office and bows to every whim of his. “Now that Yeddyurappa is out of jail, I will consult him once a week. I will continue all his programmes,” he says.
This puts Yeddyurappa in the category of ‘adviser’ and minimises chances of him turning adversarial.
The Chief Minister has effected two major changes recently, installing cameras in the chief minister’s office at the state secretariat Vidhana Soudha and at his official residence and clearing an ordinance on November 4 for timely delivery of services. “There will be no scope for any wrongdoing,” he says. Gowda has also hired a 10-member team to work on a grievances cell being set up at his home office. How far Gowda, perceived as one of Karnataka’s weakest chief ministers, will be able to carry out changes remains a moot point.