Bengaluru: Twin-engine government on overdrive to prove mettle ahead of LS polls
The opposition’s failure to quickly regroup itself has come as a blessing for the government and Congress, which is working hard to set the narrative for the LS polls.
A hundred days is a short time to measure anyone’s performance, much less to assess a government elected for five years with a thumping majority. However, initial steps indicate the pace and the direction in which the administration is headed. For now, it almost looks like a swashbuckling batsman going all out with his T20-style batting in a five-day test match.
The Siddaramaiah-DK Shivakumar government hit the ground running from day one, starting to roll out guarantee schemes that helped Congress return to power in the state and ignited hopes for its revival in other parts of the country. Of the five, three guarantees have been implemented. The fourth is scheduled to be launched on August 30, to mark the government completing 100 days in office. The fifth guarantee on providing financial assistance to unemployed graduates and diploma holders is likely to be launched by the year-end. The government has made a good beginning in terms of delivering on its promises.
The cabinet formation was done in one go without much hassle. That itself was a remarkable feat, considering how governments in the past dragged their feet, and some even kept a few berths vacant till the end. The twin-engine government seems to be working with a clear purpose and speed to prove the effectiveness of the “Karnataka Model” of governance as Congress’ efforts to put up a good show in other election-bound states as well as the 2024 Lok Sabha polls hinges on it.
The opposition’s failure to quickly regroup itself has come as a blessing for the government and Congress, which is working hard to set the narrative for the LS polls. The BJP, which won 26 seats including an independent supported by it in the last Lok Sabha polls, is yet to come up with a coordinated strategy to retain its seats. Such is the confidence in the Congress camp in the state that it has set itself a target of winning 20 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats — up from just one seat in the last election — and has started working in that direction.
On the flip side, development works have come to a standstill, there are no new big projects or initiatives and the Rs 4,000 additional cash benefit given to 48 lakh farmers under the PM Kisan Samman Yojna has been stopped. The contractors are up against the government over the delay in clearing the bills and have set a deadline of August 31, even as the government ordered multiple probes, including the demand for 40% commission during the previous BJP government and poor quality of works by contractors.
Now, as the government completes 100 days in office, the state is staring at a drought-like situation in over 120 taluks as crops face the risk of withering if there are no rains in the next few days. Though the government has started the process of declaring drought by ordering a crop survey, it needs to be prepared with a contingency plan to rush to the farmers’ aid and not let the situation aggravate. The Siddaramaiah government is also facing the tough challenge of protecting the state’s interest in the Cauvery water-sharing issue with Tamil Nadu as the Supreme Court is hearing the Tamil Nadu plea for releasing water.
On the political front too, going on overdrive comes with a set of inherent risks. What seemingly looks like an unwanted political adventure of wooing leaders from other parties could backfire. The plan may be to add as many votes to your kitty as possible ahead of the civic body polls in the state capital and next year’s LS polls, but it could create a rift within the party if new entrants get special treatment over those already in the party.
For now, the party and the government seem to be working in tandem keeping the LS polls in mind. The CM’s series of meetings with the ruling party MLAs seems to have helped to end disenchantment over not getting funds for development works and the lack of coordination between the ministers and legislators. The CM and DyCM will use appointments to boards and corporations to placate some of the legislators as well as party leaders.
What is clear in the last 100 days is that Siddaramaiah 2.0 is different from his first tenure as CM from 2013 to 2018, although there is no change in his commitment to social welfare and implementing the schemes aimed at the poor and downtrodden. At that time, Siddaramaiah was the only power centre in the state and the party high command was weak. That is not the case now. Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar wields a great deal of influence on the government and he is in full control of the party as KPCC president. Under Mallikarjun Kharge’s leadership, the AICC will have a major say in the matters of governance as well as the party.