Time to assert

Time to assert

It was good to see that at least 13 months after coming to power, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has begun the process of reviewing the performance of his ministers and offering guidance to the officials. From his recent outbursts against non-performing officials, it is clear that the chief minister is getting impatient with the sloppy administration.

 What has also emerged from these interactions over the last few days is that these reviews need to be spaced out and more sustained if they are to yield the desired results. Some ministers did complain that bunching so many departments together was not a good idea as meaningful discussion was not possible in such a short time and many of the problems could not be resolved.

Hopefully, it is only a beginning and Yeddyurappa will give the review a formal structure with a fixed time-table. In order to make it more meaningful, the department heads need to come up the list of problems to be tackled on a priority basis and the ministers will have to set the deadlines for finding solutions. When the chief minister takes the meeting, perhaps once a month, he should have a clear picture of the targets set, those achieved and those deferred for whatever reason.

If there had been an inter-ministerial problem for deferring a decision, the chief minister could call the officials concerned and find a spot solution. If slackness or lethargy is the reason for not achieving the goal, the officials should be taken to task. The chief secretary should regularly monitor their work and if three consecutive reviews find that the concerned officials are not delivering the goods, they need to be compulsorily retired invoking section 265 of the Karnataka Government Employees Service Rules. When the government begins the process of terminating the services of some top and middle-level officials found to be ‘useless,’ the others will automatically fall in line. Then, there will be no need for the chief minister to publicly curse the officials and look pathetically helpless. He simply has to exercise the powers vested in him.

The ministers
The same is the case with some of his troublesome ministerial colleagues.
The completion of one year in office by the BJP government  coincided with the party’s spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha elections. Going against the nation-wide trend, the BJP under Yeddyurappa was able to win 19 out of 28 seats, which was the best ever performance by the party. It should have been a time for celebration and vows to gear up the administration to offer a better governance to the people.

Instead, what we have been witnessing by some of the ministers is the bickering in the open, staying away from celebrations and embarrassing the leadership, issuing statements of threats and blackmailing the chief minister to do their bidding.
After an initial spat with the chief minister over CM’s son Raghavendra’s margin of victory from Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency, Energy Minister K S Eshwarappa seems to have cooled down. Eshwarappa is a senior politician and he has probably realised that if he carries his fight with Yeddyurappa for too long, both will get hurt politically.

But what is most perplexing is the attitude of the Reddy clan – Janardhan Reddy, Karunakara Reddy, Somashekar Reddy and their associates including Sri Ramulu.
No doubt, the Reddys had an important role to play in bringing the BJP to power and ensuring its ‘stability’ through well-orchestrated defections, however dubious some of their actions might have been. But they had their ‘services’ well recognised and compensated as not only they, but their associates were included in the ministry. It was not an easy thing to do as accommodating them meant that Yeddyurappa had to call for ‘sacrifices’ from some of his party seniors and loyalists.

  The chief minister has been able to keep the dissatisfaction under check so far because of the ‘weight’ he carries in the party, besides the fact that the national leadership is preoccupied with the churning that the BJP is going through after its electoral debacle.
 The Reddy brothers ought have to considered themselves lucky that they got plum portfolios after such a brief span in politics (they should ask Mallikarjun Kharge, for instance, how many years it took him to get Revenue portfolio) and got down to doing some good work for the state.

But, as ministers they seem to be more concerned about looking after their business interests and flying off to Bellary in their personal helicopters, even when they are expected to attend  Cabinet meetings. They may be new to politics, but surely they should know the sanctity of the Cabinet and its proceedings.

The chief minister obviously buckled under pressure when the Cabinet recently decided to withdraw some cases against the Reddy brothers, including the demolition of a 200-year-old temple at Bellary. This is despite the fact that the home department had clearly opposed the move as the matter is before the court.

The people of the state are certainly watching the goings-on keenly, and the chief minister, sooner than later, will have to decide whether the Reddy brothers are an asset or a liability to his government.

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