Bengaluru: “I will provide better governance” was the promise made by B S Yediyurappa (BSY) when he returned to the chair of chief minister of Karnataka after dethroning the JD (S)-Congress coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy.
Today, July 26, he completes a year in office. The Lingayat strongman's second stint as chief minister has been one of crisis after crisis, starting with devastating floods in the initial days and now the Covid-19 pandemic. Development has taken a back seat.
Since Covid-19 broke out in the state in mid-March, , government machinery has been exclusively focused on managing the pandemic. The virus struck just as the BSY government was settling down after weathering floods and political turbulence.
His newly appointed ministers, most of them defectors from the JD(S) and Congress who had helped him topple the Kumaraswamy government, were still gloating in their felicitations and admiring their lal batti cars when the coronavirus epidemic flared up.
It has been a frantic year for BSY. Barely had he taken oath when unprecedented floods occurred in the state. He was the only minister in the government. And the central leadership of the party made him wait on cabinet expansion and then forced him to accept not one but three deputy chief ministers -- obviously, a ploy to make the CM not to comfortable in his seat.
Then the usual issues kicked in: tensions wrought by accepting lateral entris from other parties, a scrum for plum portfolios, lack of coordination among ministers, etc. When the coronavirus challenged the administration in Karnataka, the lack on control over the bureaucracy was exposed. The pandemic has been managed on a day-to-day basis, and major developmental projects or infrastructure projects have all had to be kept on the back burner.
Notwithstanding his advanced age, Yediyurappa has monitored the Covid crisis actively, and the state's administration successfully kept the virus in check initially. Even the central government acknowledged the hard work. Unfortunately those efforts proved to be in vain when the nationwide lockdown was lifted and viral cases came flooding in from other states, mainly from Maharashtra.
Today Karnataka is the fourth worst corona-affected state the country. Within the span of one month, it jumped to fourth place from 11th on the Covid table. Internal fighting among ministers, lack of commitment in the bureaucracy has made matters worse.
In the last two months, the government's Covid responsne has lost it initial coherence. Frequent change of Covid in-charge ministers has created confusion to the bureaucracy. Too many ministers were appointed to handle the pandemic. Senior IAS officers have grown to avoiding responsibility.
This has given an opportunity for the opposition Congress to find its voice This it has done by hurling allegations of aRs 2000 crore scam in procuring medical equipment for Covid response
. These charges have made severe dent on the image of BSY government. The government's defence has not been convincing.
The Covid pandemic has had an adverse impact on the state's financial health. Karnataka’s GSDP growth rate is down to 6.8% as against 7.8% previous fiscal. Though the agriculture sector has shown recovery with 3.9% growth, it cannot offset the losses in other sectors. Horticulture, floriculture and related economic activities have suffered huge losses.
The service sector has been hit badly by the series of lockdowns. Recruitment has completely stalled and the displacement of guest workers has had a huge impact.
The manufacturing sector is suffering due to disruption in supply of raw materials. In particular, Bangalore Urban, which contributes more than 25% to the state's GDP, has ground to a standstill.
Karnataka has announced a Rs 1610 crore package for flower and vegetable growers, trade-based groups such as barbers, laundry workers, weavers, auto rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers. The tourism industry has incurred unprecedented losses due to the Covid pandemic.
Revenue collections by commercial taxes, motor vehicle tax, stamps and registration and excise have been severely hit. Though the state has ordered an unlock proramme in many sectors, tax generation has hit an all-time low.
Challenge ahead for BSY
Several more challengers await Yediyurappa. There has to be a cabinet expansion at some point with six vacancies left. He has to accommodate at least four rebel MLAs of both Congress and JD(S) into the Cabinet.
Former MLA Munirathna Naidu, R. Shankar, M.T.B. Nagaraj, H. Vishwanth are putting pressure on the Chief Minister to induct them to the Cabinet.
Meanwhile, party disgruntled MLAs are waiting for Cabinet expansion. Senior legislators, Umesh Katti, Basanagowda Patil Yatnal, Murugesh Nirani and others, definitely bring headache to the CM if he moves plans for Cabinet expansion....