Amid Kodagu floods, K'taka govt finds itself in choppy waters

Amid Kodagu floods, Ktaka govt finds itself in choppy waters

Squabbles, taunting remarks, frustration, rancor, confusion: these have become the hallmark of the three-month-old coalition government in Karnataka.

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is yet to come out of the persecuted complex, while the Congress party has failed to rein in former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who has been finding it tough to digest the fact that the people rejected his leadership in the 2018 elections. He has not been able to play a constructive role in the present situation as the coalition is designed and controlled by JD (S) supremo H D Deve Gowda.

Even during the worst humanitarian crisis, the coalition partners have not exhibited political maturity.

In Kodagu, there has been no end to the human misery. Kumaraswamy and his ministerial colleagues have visited the devastated areas separately and have been issuing statements according to their whims and fancy.

On the ugly spat between Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Kodagu district in-charge minister S R Mahesh, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara took exception to Sitharaman's behaviour. He tweeted that he was 'disappointed' to see her lashing out at Mahesh. He also turned into a teacher to explain how the Constitution distributes power between the Centre and states.

Two days later, Kumaraswamy in an apologetic note to Sitharaman, said he was deeply pained at the turn of events during her visit to the flood-affected areas. He regretted that she was inconvenienced. He also acknowledged her wholehearted support to the relief works. He said it was time to forget the minor differences and move on.

It is not that the defence minister's conduct was exemplary. Senior minister R V Deshpande took objection to Parameshwara's comment that the Centre was neglecting Kodagu's misery. It is not right to make such comments, Deshpande said.

Kumaraswamy has stated he has sought Rs 2,000 crore assistance from the Modi government to rebuild Kodagu and has stopped at that. However, Siddaramaiah, who is the head of the committee to coordinate between the Congress and the JD(S), during his visits to the relief camps in Kodagu found fault with Modi for not visiting Kodagu.

While different voices and analysis are being heard about the flow of funds to Kodagu, the government is yet to present a status report as to how much funds have already been collected from different sources and how the same would be spent. Probably it may take some more weeks to get a clear picture as the government's survey, including using drones, is still being conducted.

But before people can get a clear picture on the blueprint the government is going to follow for the rehabilitation, the men in the cabinet and Siddaramaiah have been giving statements which do no good to address Kodagu's problems.

If this is how administrative matters are handled, there is no matured behaviour on display when it comes to politics too.

Siddaramaiah might have introduced well-intentioned schemes during his tenure as the chief minister. But his way of thinking, planning, and execution did not strike a chord with the voting population. Should he look at the past or accept the present and work for the future?

Soon after the results were out, he had admitted that the people of the state have rejected his schemes/projects. A couple of days ago, he said he lost an opportunity to become chief minister for the second consecutive term because vested interests worked against him. However, he hit the headlines when he revealed that he nurtured the ambition to become chief minister again. But he did not mention as to when his dream would be fulfilled.

Self-declared CM

When there were speculations that he is all set to destabilise the Kumaraswamy-led government, the Congress leader and minister R V Deshpande said Siddaramaiah would never resort to backdoor politics or dissident activities.

Another Congress Minister Shivashankar Reddy said if the coordination committee decides to effect changes, then Siddaramaiah could become chief minister. How could a senior politician such as Reddy make such observation when it is crystal clear that Deve Gowda would never support such a change?

Finally, Siddaramaiah came out with a statement that he has been misconstrued. What he meant, he said, was that in the next elections his party would be blessed with power and he would again become the chief minister! So, Siddaramaiah is a self-declared chief minister!

Instead of making statements and comments which are of no use to the welfare of the state, the coordination committee should have met to discuss Kodagu, Malnad and the coastal districts' crisis.

The committee is meant to hone the working relationship between the two parties. But so far no such efforts have been made. Now, JD(S) President H Vishwanath, a migrant from the Congress to the JD(S) and a political foe of Siddaramaiah, wants to be on the panel.

At present, there are three Congress members and two JD(S) members. There are rumours even Congress state president Dinesh Gundu Rao would be brought on the panel. Deve Gowda has already stated that the panel is imbalanced in terms of representation. Can the committee function if persons with huge egos, who are unduly aggressive, are brought on board?

If the Congress high command decides to remain a mute spectator to the statements of its leaders, then deeper cracks would develop between coalition partners. The high command anyway is in no position to dictate terms to the JD (S), and can only discipline its leaders.

Even when JD (S) Minister H D Revanna arrogantly threw biscuit packets to a section of flood victims in Kodagu, Congress leaders remained mum. Revanna has not bothered to tender an apology despite public demanding that he do so.

To run a coalition government, greed for power alone cannot be the adhesive factor. There should be functional coordination and self-respect too.