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


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

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