A fumbling CM and the blame game

A fumbling CM and the blame gameHD Kumaraswamy breaks down at an event in Bengaluru

What does it take to be a good leader? Or what does it take a leader to give good governance? These two questions cannot draw answers if one looks at the performance of the coalition government in Karnataka.

The state has a chief minister who keeps whining that he has to occupy the post only for the good of farmers; otherwise he has no interest. He has been randomly choosing subjects as his priority area.

On top of it, he has ministerial colleagues who do not react to any of his utterances or theatrics in public, thus allowing him to tread the path as he wishes. In a nutshell, it is a confused state where it is a challenge to understand the intentions of the government for any sensible person.

The H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government has stepped into its third month. What impression has the government created in the minds of the public? What images or thoughts cross one's mind by seeing the actions of Kumaraswamy as head the state cabinet?

He is empathetic and sympathetic to the poor. He is ready to spend hours in the office. He is ready to meet people, listen and interact. He is candid when it comes to showing special favour to the three districts which stood by the JD (S) in the assembly elections. He is not averse to Bengaluru's development. He, unlike a decade ago, works in tandem with his father H D Deve Gowda, who is dreaming to be the next prime minister of this country.

When he is the master of himself and is in a position to command the coalition partner, then why the state is seeing a weeping CM? A CM who keeps changing his stance on crucial issues; a CM who is losing cool with the media often and a CM who is projecting himself as a solo leader instead of being a commander of his ministerial team?

Why has he created an impression that he is facing humiliation in the coalition government? Who had told him to promise farmers that he would wipe their tears by waving Rs 52,000 cr loan if he comes to power? Who is now holding him back from clearing the loan dues? For all these uncomfortable questions, he alone has answers.

People of the state did not force him to have a tie-up with the Congress or set aside his self-respect to become the CM. Now, people have been reduced to being mute spectators.

Was it a calculated or casual reaction when he responded cynically to the demand by the agitating farmers of Koppal, who were seeking his attention to the development of North Karnataka?

Knowing the Gowda clan, it is difficult to believe that there is no motive behind any of his words or action. More than once he has expressed his annoyance with the people of Karnataka for not standing by him in the assembly elections.

It is a fact that the people did not support his dream to become the CM. But his father found a way out to fulfill the dream of his son. As there is no illegality in the path created for him to reach the CM gaddi, the matter should have ended at it. But after assuming office, Kumaraswamy has been expressing his displeasure over the way his party was relegated to the third position in the elections. Kumaraswamy himself has confessed that he is not the leader of the masses but could become the CM, thanks to Rahul Gandhi.

Avoidable controversy

In case of the North Karnataka statehood issue, it was the chief minister who stoked the controversy.

On July 11, during the budget session, two BJP leaders – first B Sriramulu and next Basavaraj Bommai – said that the budget allocation to the districts of North Karnataka has been paltry.

Sriramulu had said that if the discrimination against the region continues, then the demand for a separate statehood would be revived. However, going by the party's stand on the issue, Sriramulu had to eat his own words.

On July 24 in Channapattana, Kumaraswamy complicated the matter.

Referring to the agitation of farmers in Koppal over the separate statehood, he said the people who are now expecting him to work for their welfare did not bother to vote for him in the elections as they did not rise above caste and money. He did not stop at that. He wondered how the districts of North Karnataka would mobilise funds for the UKP III in case they become part of a separate state.

Once the statehood issue began to boomerang, Kumaraswamy issued a statement saying that it was the media which created the controversy. He had no intention dividing the state, he insisted. A point to be noted is that when the media reported his speech in Channapattana, he had not disowned what the media had aired/reported immediately. His love for Akhanda (unified) Karnataka came only after a week.

His father took a good number of days to say that as long he is alive, Karnataka would remain united. By the time the duo reacted, a couple of organisations in the region had called for a bandh on August 2 to protest against the perceived negligence of the districts of North Karnataka in the budget presented by Kumaraswamy.

Both father and son being seasoned politicians, instead of waiting for the situation to aggravate, should have immediately expressed their views. But they did not. TV news channels might have devoted a lot of airtime on this issue. But the question remains – why did Kumaraswamy create such a situation?

Why booklet?

On August 5, Deve Gowda announced that a booklet would be brought explaining how much funds have been allocated to the North Karnataka by his son. This statement came after two newspapers on August 5 published the details of fund allocation to different regions by Kumaraswamy in the budget.

The reports explained with statistics that there was no budgetary discrimination against the region. Instead, the allocations were more for North Karnataka compared to the South. But one wonders why the chief minister so far has not substantiated his arguments that he has not done injustice to the North Karnataka in his budget. Is bringing out a booklet the only way to put across facts when a big team of bureaucrats and communication experts works for him?

He is upset that the media has pointed out that he has shown special favour to three Vokkaliga dominated districts – Mandya, Mysuru, and Ramanagara – where the JD (S) performed well in the elections.

In Channapattana, while addressing a rally, he justified releasing an additional Rs 500 crore for these districts. There is nothing wrong as the people of these districts had stood by him in the polls, he argued. But is he the chief minister of only these three districts to show them special favour?

To amend his wrongs, he has announced that he would ensure the shifting the certain government offices to Belagavi so that administration can be decentralised. The Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi would be best put to use, he has declared.

In addition, he has said three Information Commissioners and an Upa Lokayukta office would be located in north Karnataka instead of Bengaluru. He said he would consider making Belagavi as the second capital of Karnataka.

In 2006, during his regime as the chief minister, the idea of having a Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi took shape. It became functional from October 2012. Till now what purpose it has served except hosting winter sessions of the legislature for a couple of weeks in a year?

The building has no infrastructure to accommodate a good number of offices because it is not built to house offices of the kind the government runs. Will the government be spending more money to create infrastructure? Such a majestic building is not even developed as a tourist attraction.

Probably Kumaraswamy would have earned more confidence of the people if he had remained more focused on the job at hand rather than shedding tears over the past and overreacting to people and Opposition parties.

If the media is spreading lies, then it is time for him to opt for legal recourse rather than finding fault with the media on a daily basis. After all, he is the owner of a television channel. He must know how to block coverage for false news.