Eventful year for govt, no major troubles

CM remained in control of Cong party; did little to solve drought problem

Eventful year for govt, no major troubles

The Congress government in Karnataka faced two major challenges in the outgoing year of 2015: winning the elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and offering succour to people in the drought-hit districts.

Despite winning far fewer seats, the Congress managed to take control of Bengaluru’s civic body by allying with its opponent, the JD(S), and taking advantage of a law that allows MPs, MLAs and MLCs to vote in the BBMP.

The BJP won 100 out of the 198 wards only to sit in the Opposition. It failed to read the situation. The manner in which the Congress and the JD(S) set aside their differences to outsmart the BJP was seen by some as “disrespecting” people’s mandate.

The government, however, didn’t do much to address the drought problem and check farmer suicides, except for pressuring the Centre for funds. So acute is the drought that a staggering 137 out of the total 176 taluks have been declared drought-hit. Hangal was the latest to the join the list in the third week of December.

As Karnataka received a 22-per cent deficient monsoon, the kharif crops were badly affected. The rabi season didn’t cheer farmers either. North Karnataka is the worst-hit. Food production is likely to fall short of at least 40 per cent.

No Cabinet minister extensively toured the drought-affected areas to instil confidence in farmers. Of course, the government waived Rs 300 crore worth of interest on crop loans and deferred the collection of the principal amount for a year. Karnataka sought Rs 3,850 crore as drought relief from the Centre. The Centre sanctioned Rs 1,540 crore but the State is yet to get it.

Agriculture Department figures show that as many as 964 farmers committed suicide in the State as of December 29. The government increased the compensation for the families of deceased farmers from Rs two lakh to Rs five lakh.

Siddaramaiah also bowed to pressure from his party colleagues and filled the vacant berths in the Cabinet. He had to finally induct State Congress president G Parameshwara into the Cabinet. He made R V Deshpande the Major Industries Minister and created a new portfolio, Bengaluru City Development.

Lokayukta weaker
The anti-corruption watchdog, Lokayukta, became weaker in Karnataka following accusations that a corruption and extortion scam was being run within the institution. Former Lokayukta Justice Bhaskar Rao’s son, Y Ashwin, and ten others are now in jail.

So mind-numbing was the scandal that the legislature amended the Lokayukta Act to enable it to oust the Lokayukta. But before he could be removed, Justice Rao resigned on December 19.

The year will mostly end in the Lokayukta institution going headless.The government’s efforts to remove Upalokayukta Subhash Adi also created a controversy.

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