BENGALURU: After the BBMP elections, Bengaluru will have a full-time minister to oversee its affairs. A Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards as well, and the city will get a dedicated minister after a gap of 11 years, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Tuesday.
Ramalinga Reddy, the current Transport Minister, was the last to hold the Bengaluru Development portfolio in the S M Krishna government (1999-2004). Subsequent chief ministers Dharam Singh,H D Kumaraswamy and B S Yeddyurappa had kept the portfolio with themselves. Siddaramaiah had followed suit.
During an interaction with the media, Siddaramaiah expressed confidence that the Congress would wrest power at the BBMP, which goes to polls on August 22. He said a full-time minister would help ensure better coordination between the state and the civic body.
Besides Reddy, Information Minister R Roshan Baig is a frontrunner for the post.
Recently, Siddaramaiah divested himself of the Industries portfolio, which he had held for two-and-a-half years, to senior Cabinet colleague R V Deshpande. “I wanted to do it long ago. But the reshuffle was postponed for one reason or the other. Since the state is organising a Global Investors’ Meet in November, there was a need for a full-time Industries minister,” he said.
Siddaramaiah had drawn flak after big investors like Hero MotoCorp, Google, Bosch and Posco shied away from Karnataka, allegedly because of delay in clearances. He has also faced criticism for not addressing the garbage crisis and the crumbling infrastructure of Bengaluru.
The Janata Dal government headed by the late J H Patel was the first to have a full-time Bengaluru Development minister back in 1996. Actor-turned-politician Anant Nag was the first minister with the portfolio. He was succeeded by V Somanna.
Siddu vs Krishna: A general perception prevails that the Siddaramaiah regime is pro-rural and anti-Bengaluru. The announcement about a full-fledged minister for Bengaluru comes just four days before the BBMP polls, and seeks to battle that perception.
In Bengaluru’s corporate circles, Krishna is still seen as the face of the Congress because of his sustained focus on the city’s infrastructure. He was criticised for neglecting rural Karnataka, and paid a heavy price in the 2004 Assembly elections, which his party lost.
Asked if the party had taken a conscious decision to build a pro-rural image after the defeat of the Congress under Krishna, Siddaramaiah said, “We come from different social backgrounds and that is reflected in our policies. But it doesn’t mean that I have any aversion towards Bengaluru.”
Siddaramaiah listed garbage disposal, traffic regulation and elevated roadways as his three top priorities for the city.
To a question about whether the government would dissolve the BBMP if President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to a law seeking to trifurcate the city, Siddaramaiah replied, “The Cabinet will take a decision.”
It’s Really Final
The chief minister, who has managed to stave off demands for a Cabinet expansion for one-and-a-half years, said it would happen after the BBMP polls.
“I never thought the Cabinet reshuffle would be delayed so much. But this time, there isno reason to delay it any further,” he said.
Siddaramaiah, however, did not give any specific time frame.
He also refused to give a direct reply on whether he would have a deputy chief minister. “We will discuss it with the party high command and take a decision,” he said.
He said the question of dropping ministers would depend on what the high command says.
Initially denying suggestions that the outcome of the BBMP polls would impact his government and his position, he eventually admitted that a defeat could be a note of “caution” to his government.
“There will always be efforts to go after those in power. I am not an exception,” Siddaramaiah said, when asked if he would lose power in case the Congress fails the BBMP test.