Challenges ahead

Challenges ahead

Several daunting challenges await Siddaramaiah, who was sworn in as the 22nd chief minister of Karnataka on Monday. His first major task, of course, will be the formation of the cabinet, giving due weightage to experience and youth and a fair representation to various regions and communities.

Considering that the Congress is returning to power in the state after nearly eight years and many veterans who have ministerial experience have been re-elected to the Assembly, the competition for 33 berths that are available, is bound to be intense. But the fact that the Congress high command quickly settled the chief minister issue, going by the majority view of the legislature party, gives room for hope that the cabinet formation will also be a smooth affair. At least that’s what the people expect having given the Congress party a clear majority in the just concluded elections.

Siddaramaiah, the first person from Kuruba community to be elevated to the post of chief minister, has the right age, administrative experience and a relatively clean image to take up the responsibility. His initial assurance of giving “a clean, corruption-free and transparent government” will be welcomed by the people, who experienced almost exactly the opposite from the previous BJP government over the last five years. While ruling out ‘revenge politics’ against his political rivals he has also given his commitment to set up special courts to conduct speedy trials into illegal mining and bring the culprits to book.

The new government is expected to present a fresh budget in June, after taking into account the resource position and identifying new avenues of generating funds. But even without waiting for the cabinet to be formed, the unseemly hurry with which Siddaramaiah announced a series of populist measures, including a provision of 30 kg rice at Re 1 per kg to BPL families and waiver of Rs 4,409 crore of loans, clearly shows that the Congress party has mandated him to keep an eye on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Day One, more than the state’s finances at the moment. In the face of such profligacy, Siddaramaiah’s financial acumen will be severely tested in the days to come.

The opposition JD(S) and the BJP, which have strong presence in the House with 40 members each, will be expected to pull up the government when it goes astray. But they should also extend constructive cooperation to the government where needed, without needlessly mixing politics.

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