Firmly in the saddle

Print edition : July 30, 2010

Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presenting the State budget.-

THE first ever Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka, under the leadership of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, has gained in strength in the State despite a bumpy first two years.

The recent resignation of the State's Lokayukta, N. Santosh Hegde, who launched a scathing attack against the government's non-cooperation in the drive against corruption in the large-scale export of illegally mined iron ore came as a rude shock. Hegde's withdrawal of his resignation, though a relief for Yeddyurappa, does not detract from the charges he made against the government. An unfazed Chief Minister passed the blame of illegal mining on to the Congress, stating that it was that party's government that was instrumental in giving a fillip to iron-ore mining and export in the early years of the present decade.

The Chief Minister weathered a major political crisis in November, when an all-out attempt was made to dislodge him, and has emerged as an important leader for the BJP. Yeddyurappa is all set to follow S.M. Krishna in the current decade, Ramakrishna Hegde in the 1980s and D. Devaraj Urs in the 1970s, all of whom served as Chief Ministers for five years or more. There is no senior leader in the State unit of the BJP who is likely to pose any challenge to him, especially with the dominant Veerashaiva community to which he belongs, backing him to the hilt.

In Yeddyurappa's words: The BJP will rule Karnataka for another 10 years, and I am confident of completing a full term. With the success of the party in all elections since the May 2008 Assembly elections, even officials in the bureaucracy opposed to BJP rule have now started cooperating.

It is now for Yeddyurappa to show that his government will bring about a change in the lives of the people. Projects relating to welfare schemes and development works announced over the past two years have to be implemented. Ministers in the Cabinet should be put through an assessment and those deficient in public service should be removed, and legislators with experience and knowledge should be inducted into the Council of Ministers.

The optimum size of the Karnataka ministry is 34. A reshuffle of the State Cabinet, largely aimed at better governance, is on the cards soon after the budget session of the State Legislature, which commenced on June 28.

In an interview to Frontline on the occasion of the BJP government's second anniversary, the Chief Minister exuded confidence: I will shortly hold a consultation with senior leaders of the party and finalise the reshuffle of the Cabinet. It will be a collective decision, and some of the people in the Cabinet will have to make way for new faces. I am confident of completing my term in office and will also ensure that the BJP stays in power for another term.

He agreed that some of the Ministers hardly attended office and added that he had therefore decided to stay in Bangalore for at least three days a week henceforth. I have been on tour at least five days a week and have decided to bring this down to three days. I will be at the headquarters in the larger interest of focussing on the administration and taking care of the interests of the State and the people. I am sure my Cabinet colleagues will follow suit.

The Chief Minister was asked to list his three major achievements and three failures. As achievements he mentioned the organising of the Global Investors Meet, in which an investment of nearly Rs.5 lakh crore was committed by industrialists and businessmen; the introduction of the Bhagyalakshmi scheme for the girl child (nine lakh beneficiaries so far); and the granting of permission to steel plants to prevent the export of iron ore. The failures he mentioned included the shoddy supply of electricity and laxity in the implementation of developmental works, particularly the road works of the Public Works Department, and in the response of the administration to the requirements of the people.

Yeddyurappa said he was committed to completing of the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway project (being executed by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Limited) as directed by the Supreme Court. I like to assure the farmers who will lose their land for the project that they will all be paid a good compensation. The government is committed to taking care of the interests of farmers.

S. Rajendran

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