IN THE BALANCE
THE BJP WINS THE TRUST VOTE, BUT THERE ARE PROBLEMS APLENTY FOR NEW CHIEF MINISTER YEDIYURAPPA
THE CURTAINS HAVE COME down (for now) on the political drama in Karnataka, bringing with it an end to the 14-month-old Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government. The new BJP regime—the party won the assembly trust vote on July 30 and cannot be challenged for the next six months—led by chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa (BSY) says its first priority is putting together a council of ministers with a “clean public image”.
If it happens, it will be a considerable improvement on BSY’s last term as CM (May ’08-Aug. ’11), which saw the exit of nearly half-a-dozen scam-tainted ministers, and eventually his own sacking over a mining scam. The BJP central leadership is giving him a clean slate, though, hoping Yediyurappa delivers a stable, corruption-free administration this time around.
Sources say party president Amit Shah is being consulted on all appointments. The BJP has returned to power after six years and BSY cannot afford any more missteps. The names doing the rounds include former deputy CMs K.S. Eshwarappa and R. Ashoka, leaders like Govinda Karjola, C.M. Udasi, V. Somanna, Umesh Katti, Basavaraja Bommai, J.C. Madhuswamy, Suresh Kumar, V. Sriramulu, Balachandra Jarkiholi, C.T. Ravi and Ashwath Narayan. Most of them are ex-ministers, which has caused some heartburn among the youth leaders who want more representation this time.
Other spokes in the wheel could be ex-CM Jagadish Shettar, who wants to be a minister again, and Sriramulu, who has already declared that he is a candidate for the deputy CM’s post. In the past, the BJP has had two deputy CMs, but it wants to do away with the post this time.
Political observers say Yediyurappa cannot have controversial people around him like last time. “His image took a beating because of the actions of his colleagues in 2011,” says political historian A. Veerappa. “But it won’t be easy. In addition to keeping his peers happy, Yediyurappa must keep out leaders like M.P. Renukacharya and Arvind Limbavali considering the recent developments (sexual misconduct allegations) surrounding them”.
The JD(S) has already declared that it will be keeping a close eye on the BJP. The party had played a key role in exposing Yediyurappa’s land deals in his last term. BSY, though, insists things will be different this time and has even sought the cooperation of the opposition in delivering a corruption-free government. “If the opposition finds me wavering in my duty, they can tell me. I will do a course correction,” Yediyurappa told the assembly on July 30.
A list of 22 names has been prepared for the council of ministers while another 10 berths have been set aside
for the turncoat MLAs disqualified by former speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar. “He cannot ignore the disqualified MLAs, it’s their resignations which helped Yediyurappa become the CM,” points out political analyst B. Prakash.
In fact, a vexing issue is the limbo to which the 17 rebel MLAs (14 Congress and three JD(S)) have been consigned. A few of them have even approached the Supreme Court seeking relief. The ex-speaker, in his ruling, clearly mentions that the MLAs will remain disqualified for the rest of the term (till 2023). “This disqualification issue may not be resolved in the immediate future, as there are several possible scenarios. The next assembly speaker may even reinterpret the ruling. The MLAs have to be prepared for a lengthy battle,” says constitutional expert M. Ranganath.
Some of them are already unsettled with how things
YEDIYURAPPA CAN’T IGNORE THE DISQUALIFIED LEGISLATORS WHO HELPED HIM BECOME CHIEF MINISTER
played out. Former JD(S) president H. Vishwanath is contemplating retiring from politics to make way for his son. Senior advocate C.A. Gowda is of the view that the disqualified legislators can still enjoy power without being MLAs. “There are many options open before them. But it’s for the new government to take the final call,” he says.
On the administration front, BSY has many important tasks at hand. In the past 14 months, though the coalition government announced several programmes, development had taken a backseat. Be it Bengaluru’s collapsing infrastructure or agrarian distress, there has been little progress in finding lasting solutions.
Bengaluru took the brunt of the indecisiveness. Critics say government departments were working in silos while the ministers concerned were ignorant of the issues involved. For instance, while the Bengaluru traffic police promoted car-pooling to decongest the city’s roads, the transport department, citing an ancient rule, put on hold all ride-sharing options. Though many companies changed working hours to beat peak hour traffic, the slow pace of work, such as cementing (white-topping) of arterial roads, road widening and Namma Metro, have greatly reduced the average speed of vehicles in Bengaluru.
“The BJP is considered a ‘pro-urban’ party. I hope Yediyurappa appoints a dedicated minister for Bengaluru,” says urban evangelist V. Thomas. “The city needs urgent fixes; this is the time for the BJP to show that it can make a difference with the Centre’s help.”
Uncleared garbage, water shortages, erratic power supply, Bengaluru’s woes are many. “It is not that the situation deteriorated in the past 14 months. The JD(S)Congress government allowed the issues to aggravate because they were too busy trying to save their government,” contends civic expert Prof. S.L. Rao.
The situation in rural Karnataka is also bad with 156 taluks declared drought-hit. Only the western and south interior Karnataka regions have received normal rainfall. The Cauvery basin continues to be rainfall-deficit. If the monsoon doesn’t pick up pace, the state will have another lengthy legal battle on its hands with Tamil Nadu over the sharing of Cauvery waters.
While the outgoing government claims it did well, the state’s GDP is unlikely to grow much due to the poor monsoon and agricultural distress. Karnataka’s gross state domestic product growth is estimated at 9.6 per cent during 2018–19, as compared to 10.4 per cent the previous year. Revenues are healthy thanks to the various taxes levied by the state government.
Despite its scant tenure, the coalition government was marked by several scams: the IMA ponzi scheme, the proposed sale of public land to a steel company or the revised steel flyover project in Bengaluru. The BJP will be keen to avoid such a situation. “We are here to deliver a government that is appreciated by the people. The plan is to return to power with full majority in 2023,” declared BJP leader A. Deve Gowda.
BJP sources say the central leadership has given Yediyurappa a ‘development mandate’ with focus on specific areas that impact Karnataka. “Every minister will get a similar mandate. Our development model will be successful,” says one of the new chief minister’s aides. ■
V FOR... B.S. Yediyurappa with BJP MLAs after winning the confidence vote in the Vidhana Soudha, July 30
TOGETHER THEY FALL Ex-CM H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), and Siddaramiah (right) of the Congress, at one of their many press meets