Two years to go, BSY needs to look beyond survival

Considering the troubles he had to go through in the last three years just to ward off the threats to the survival of his government, Yeddyurappa scores high marks for his political skills and management. But surely, the people did not vote for the first full-fledged BJP government down South, merely to hang on to power.

In May 2008, the people of Karnataka took a momentous decision to reject both the Congress and the JD(S). They also exhibited their disillusionment with the two coalition arrangements that preceded the last Assembly elections and showed unconventional wisdom in giving the BJP a near-majority to rule for five years.

It was supposed to be ‘a party with a difference’ and inner-party discipline its hallmark. But, the way its MLAs have behaved lusting after power and even going to the extent of attempting to knock it down, has shocked and surprised everyone, including the central leadership of the party.

The people had given a clear mandate to Yeddyurappa who had been projected as the chief ministerial candidate. The genesis of the problem lies in his sense of insecurity at being three short of majority and the series of mistakes he made right from the start by launching the ‘operation lotus’ to bolster the BJP numbers.

He should have remembered what the Janata Party (later Janata Dal) did when it came to power in 1983. Ramakrishna Hegde, who was plucked from nowhere to head the first non-Congress ministry and was not the voters’ choice, ran a minority government quite comfortably for two years, concentrated on winning the people’s hearts with novel policies and programmes and reaped a rich harvest going in for mid-term election just two years later.

Yeddyurappa, on the other hand, showed excessive obsession with increasing the strength of MLAs on the treasury benches, even luring those from the opposition. He perhaps failed to realise that when you dip your hand in the lotus pond, the hand can get dirty.

The ‘imported legislators’ to the BJP came at a heavy price, demanding and getting ministership, which triggered a tsunami of protests in his own party, from which Yeddyurappa is yet to recover. The governor, H R Bhardwaj’s botched efforts to unseat him twice in the last six months, may have backfired, but the Yeddyurappa government’s position is far from secure.

Some achievements

In the midst of all the fire-fighting, the Yeddyurappa government should be given credit for focusing on social welfare measures for the under-privileged, trying to improve the lot of the farmers, creating more irrigation facilities, laying the foundation for increased generation of electricity and generous spending on infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and sanitation.

The 3 per cent loan scheme for the farmers (which has now been reduced to 1 per cent) has reportedly benefited over eight lakh farmers and the agriculture production is looking up for the first time in a decade; many long-pending irrigation projects have been completed and the government has earmarked Rs 8,000 crore to give further fillip to irrigation; the power projects initiated, including a unique one in Chhattisgarh, should start yielding results in about three years’ time and ease the shortage of electricity.

The global investors’ meet has had some success with around 400 companies showing interest in investing about Rs 3 lakh crore in various fields including steel, cement, biotechnology and telecommunication. Though, of course, the government faces a big challenge in the acquisition of land for the projects to become a reality. In Bangalore city, the completion of the first phase of the metro rail in the near future, should offer some relief to the commuting public.

Rather than looking back at the missed opportunities, the Yeddyurappa government should now concentrate on what it can achieve over the next two years. The biggest challenge Yeddyurappa faces is to make his ministry far more proactive than it has been.

Except a handful of ministers like Shobha Karandlaje, Suresh Kumar, R Ashoka, C M Udasi and Vishveshwara Hegde Kageri, a majority of the others have hardly made an impression. On the eve of completing three years in office, that the chief minister had to issue a ‘direction’ to his ministerial colleagues to attend their offices in Vidhana Soudha for at least three days a week, is in itself a reflection of the lethargy that has set in over a period of time.

As the captain of the team, Yeddyurappa himself should set a better example. As is evident, most of his time is taken up in unproductive activities like visiting temples and mutts seeking divine intervention. Instead, he could draw up a priorities’ list, devote more time and energies on setting targets for various ministries, reviewing their performances periodically and pulling up those ministers and officials who fail to meet the deadlines.

The results of recent byelections to the Assembly, where the BJP won all three seats on offer, indicate that the people still have hopes in the Yeddyurappa government and the alternatives to BJP are far from their minds. But the time to deliver is here and now.

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