CM in absentia

BJP's Sahachintana Baithak

When Rome burned, Nero fiddled. When most parts of north Karnataka were deluged by floods and some parts reeled under drought, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and his Council of Ministers tried to perfect the management technique of brainstorming, ostensibly to evolve an optimal development model for the state.

Nero’s act is popular legend and an anachronism, as the fiddle was invented a thousand years later. According to historian Tacitus, upon hearing news of the fire, Nero rushed back to Rome to organise a relief effort, which he paid for from his own funds. After the fire, Nero opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors. He made a new urban development plan. Houses of wood, after the fire, were built in brick, spaced out and were faced by porticos on wide roads.

Usual response

Yeddyurappa too responded to the distress call in absentia, from the safe and comfy environs of the Suttur Mutt near Mysore, where his party BJP’s sahachintana baithak was on under the tutelage of brain trusts — Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and a few RSS leaders. The chief minister ordered relief measures be taken up, announced appropriate monetary compensation for the bereaved families who lost dear ones and for those whose homes were destroyed. That is, if Rs 1 lakh for loss of life and Rs 10,000 for loss of one’s most prized possession could be considered ‘appropriate’ compensation.

The revenue minister, the nodal point for government-run relief work in any natural calamity, and the district in-charge ministers were also with the chief minister at the baithak (except for two ministers, who rushed to their home districts, and the revenue minister, who addressed a press conference in Bangalore to reassure anyone listening that the district deputy commissioners’ coffers were as full as the rivers in spate and relief operations were in place. He also appealed to the Central government to rush a study team without the delay with which it had addressed the preceding drought in the state, and pump in more money for after-relief, like a good dessert usually compensates a bad meal. That reassurance too came after three successive days of rain havoc, death and misery, and at the end of the baithak).
After the three-day-long baithak, a rejuvenated chief minister and team got down to the serious business of rescue and relief, pressing navy and army boats into service to supplement the ongoing efforts and making all the appropriate noises in front of media cameras. So upbeat was the chief minister that he even took part in a felicitation by Karnataka Milk Federation at Tumkur, to confer on him the title ‘Ksheera bandhu’ or ‘friend of milk (producers)’, for announcing a subsidy on milk recently.

Intra-party threat?

What prompted the BJP to subject the little over one-year-old Yeddyurappa cabinet to a corporate style creative problem solving session is not known. No doubt, the ‘nasty jolt’ (as described by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat) that the BJP received in the 2009 general elections, has left the party in a flap. In such situations, or when the party is faced with internal or external threat, the ministers and MLAs are usually rehabbed or rejuvenation at not so accessible destinations, far from the rest of the madding political world.

That apart, there is self-styled governance guru H D Kumaraswamy’s barnstorming model, where he would choose the remotest of remote villages to spend a night in the poorest of poor houses, learning the art of living and let live. That his men went ahead of him and made arrangements for his food and board is another issue. Now, Yeddyurappa has announced a similar plan but is yet to take it up in right earnest.

But what the BJP party honchos seem to have missed out while deciding on the sahachintana baithak is the fact that even management mavericks have learned the hard way that brainstorming has long joined the much hated list of management cliches like “thinking out of the box” and “blue-sky thinking”. It is now a recognised truth that each individual has his or her own way of addressing a crisis situation and one size never fits all governance issues. Moreover, if our ministers leave the comfort and security of their chambers in Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat in Bangalore, to tour the nooks and corners of the state, that will afford them the best learning experience and troubleshooting opportunity. And, of course, the much needed ‘recharge’ as described by minister S Suresh Kumar.

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