Some Change in Karnataka
Karnataka elections having delivered a hung mandate, a Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition has stepped into the saddle of governance. On a day (May 15) when the Congress and the JDS had lost all hopes of stopping the BJP in its tracks, the fortunes took a serendipitous turn for the JDS party and its leader Mr. H. D. Kumaraswamy, pitch forking them onto the throne.
For Mr. H. D. Kumaraswamy, chief minister now, the tenure is not going to be easy. He wears a crown of thorns. Even while his position within the JDS is unassailable, there are enough number of ambitious heavyweights in the Congress, the major alliance partner, to keep him on tenterhooks. Both parties will be constantly tempted to safeguard their vote banks, and there are bound to be conflicts of interests, especially when the twain vie with each other in wresting advantages to better their returns in the 2019 elections. In the crucial one year ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the parties will be judged by every action they initiate for the state’s progress and every move they make to consolidate the their own positions.
If keeping the BJP out of power in this important southern state has been achieved, they will need to keep a sharp eye on dislodging the communal forces completely in the 2019 polls. That they are aware of it has been endorsed by the grand platform the swearing-in ceremony provided for the leaders of the major Opposition groups. But it is easier said than done. A host of issues will test their nerves while negotiating the obstacle course. They would need to accommodate each other’s aspirations in ways that do not earn popular ill-will and in a manner the state’s progress is not compromised.
A major factor that kept the BJP from gaining majority was its incapacity to project a new face. Having run a well-oiled campaign with immense pumping of resources, the BJP projected Mr. Yeddyurappa, a 75-year old leader who carries the taint of ‘Operation Lotus’. This in itself carries a message: Avoid being seen as corrupt. Rise above caste and community and work for an inclusive society in the state.
Karnataka has achieved phenomenal progress in widening the social security net by launching umpteen food security schemes. It has widened access to quality education to a great mass of population and has played a stellar role in networking people with welfare schemes through the use of new technologies. The state scores high on taking all social components forward in human development schemes.
But there are sectors that cry for attention. Most of the industrialization is Bengaluru-centric. The savage struggle among the politicians to carve up as well as invest in real estate has turned Bengaluru into a civic hell. A roof over one’s head out of one’s own legitimate income is becoming a mirage. Private schools and hospitals are pushing quality education and healthcare beyond the common man’s reach. The city has turned into a hub of racketeers and fly-by-night operators who run Ponzi schemes and rob the common people of their hard-earned savings. Smaller towns and far-flung districts in Hyderabad-Karnataka and Hubli-Dharwad regions have no industries worth the name. Desiccated by perpetual drought, they attract no investment. Their meager harvests are pawned to the cartels of megamalls much before they are harvested. A sizeable amount of horticultural crops rot or are sold for a song due to the absence of post-harvest technology to process them into long shelf-life products. The towns and cities of the state’s northern districts look desolate, with investors and entrepreneurs spurning them due to the abject state of civic amenities and chronic power shortage.
The interstate tussle over the Cauvery is all likely to etch to relief the dichotomy of stances the two allies may likely adopt. The JDS will be called upon to exercise restraint against harsher stances as major part of the Cauvery basin forms its vote bank. Inaction too would lead to advantage shifting to the BJP. Similarly, the issue of farmers’ debt-waiving would prove thorny to tackle. Perhaps the two parties would need to align their approaches on ensuring communal peace and harmony in the coastal belt, from where the BJP has bagged a vast chunk of seats.
The former Siddramaiah Government unrolled a host of welfare schemes in the state. Yet the Congress remained from garnering a majority of seats despite having a better tally of popular votes i.e., 38% against the BJP’s 36%. All that it indicates is that mere good work and freebies do not persuade the people to cast their votes. The vote-seekers need to shrug off complacency and go for more energetic campaigns to publicise their achievements.
On the party level, the two parties need to revisit their strategies and see how hate-mongers could be kept away from the saddle of governance.