Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has successfully completed one year in office, establishing himself firmly in the saddle.Despite minor jolts, he has been able to take his colleagues along and deliver on some key election promises. In an interview with Rajashekara S of The New Indian Express, Siddaramaiah said bringing the administration back on track had been his toughest challenge. Excerpts
Some people are saying several members of your inner circle of ministers will lose their portfolios in a reshuffle after the elections?
There is no such thinking. We will review the ministers’ performance and that is a separate matter. We will fill four ministerial slots that are open.
There are allegations that the bureaucracy takes orders not from the ministers concerned but from your coterie of ministers, and legislators such as Basavaraju.
No, that is not true. A few transfers were probably effected following requests from party workers. In a democracy, we need to do these. Some party workers might have asked for transfers of their kith and kin, and that doesn’t mean interference in the administration or dispensing of favours. Transfers shouldn’t become a business for anyone to make a fast buck. We have controlled that.
More and more people are writing off the Congress at the Centre. What is your analysis of the Lok Sabha elections?
One cannot say the Congress has no chance. There is an anti-incumbency factor and there could be a change in numbers. But we are confident of the Congress forming a government.
What about Karnataka? Your own party colleagues are expecting just eight to 10 seats.
Do you think they have more information than we do? The reports are on a par with our expectations. I have been saying the Congress will win 18 to 20 seats.
A section in your party is waiting to strike at you.
Our Congress high command is strong and ultimately
everyone has to fall in line with what it says. I will complete my full term in office.
Former chief minister Sadanada Gowda has levelled land de-notification charges against you and accused you of illegally collecting huge amounts for the elections.
He has been a chief minister and should speak more responsibly. He should come out with proof before making these charges. He is probably thinking of the scams during the previous BJP government in the state and imagining that we are doing the same. We have not done any such thing.
What are your achievements? Are you satisfied with the performance of your government?
The government’s main focus was to work for the poor, the weaker sections, dalits, minorities and farmers. We have spent Rs 1,900 crore to provide a minimum support price for farm produce, set up an agriculture price commission, offered farm loans and loan waivers, and distributed rice at Rs 1 a kilo. We are spending over Rs 4,000 crore on the rice scheme alone. These have brought me a lot of satisfaction.
What is the one thing you found very tough over the past year?
Bringing the administration back on track was a tough job. The previous BJP government in the state had completely derailed the general administration.
What is the one thing you regret not doing over the past year?
None. To feel such a thing, I would have to complete five years. Over the past year, we have implemented 90 of the 165 promises made before the elections.
As a minister, you were well in control of the situation. But as a CM you seem to have lost control over your team.
Ministers are co-operating but at the same time, it is difficult to expect the same approach from everyone. I cannot expect everyone to be like me. Overall, it is important to know if they are delivering justice to the people. There is perfect coordination and cooperation in the cabinet. Because of this, we are working to the people’s expectations.
Who are the most effective ministers and how do you rate them?
All are working well. Some need to work more. It is my expectation that we work more, and that includes me.
You have earned a name as an astute administrator. But going by the confusion in your government, there is a feeling that the old Siddaramaiah is lost somewhere. The clash over the Civil Services Board is an example.
There is no new or old Siddaramaiah. Siddaramaiah is Siddaramaiah. I will never change. There is no confusion or controversy in the government. One of the officers has not properly discharged his duties. We have served him a notice. After I signed (an order on the Civil Service Board), the cabinet decided to keep it in abeyance. The cabinet’s decision is final. Whatever I had decided earlier has been reversed by the Cabinet. There ends the matter. It is true that I took the decision. But when I found it incorrect, I changed it in the cabinet.
Governor HR Bhardwaj is not happy with your government’s handling of drought.
When I met him, he never discussed these issues. A day after I met him, he said the government was not tackling drought properly. He probably doesn’t have correct information. We have very ably dealt with the drinking water and drought problems. No government in the past has released `516 crore for the rural development department to take up drinking water and drought works. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, ` 439 crore is available for employment generation. There is no shortage of fodder. In 1,086 villages, water is supplied through tankers.
Even KPCC chief G Parameshwar thought you should take Raj Bhavan’s advice seriously.
These are results of a communication gap. The KPCC president didn’t know what the governor had said and the governor didn’t know what the government was doing. Parameshwara has said the government should work more and that we are doing.
Don’t Know About DKS’s Word, Says Siddaramaiah
Siddaramaiah fielded two questions about Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, who harbours chief ministerial ambitions. Shivakumar recently told a gathering of Vokkaligas that they should support him if an opportunity arises for him to hold the top position.
Shivakumar recently claimed he had given you a word. What is the word he has given you?
I don’t know. Ask him. He is my cabinet colleague and I don’t know in what context he has said it. He may have said it thinking he has a chance of becoming a CM.
Do you endorse him saying he will favour a community if he comes to power? Isn’t it a violation of the oath of office and the Constitution?
I don’t know what exactly he has said. If he has said he will help one community at the cost of others, then it is wrong. We need to fulfil the aspirations of all castes and communities.