Controversies, crises and Congress government in Karnataka

Alleged irregularities in MUDA site allotment and ST Corporation are likely to rock the monsoon session of the state legislature starting from July 15.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah(File Photo)

There is no respite from controversies and crises for the Congress government in Karnataka. The Siddaramaiah government that recently completed one year in office and ought to have entered the second year with full vigour and focus on making administration more efficient seems to be hitting far too many air pockets.

Even before the dust kicked up by massive financial irregularities in Karnataka Maharshi Valmiki Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation settled down, and Congress barely managed to stop its leaders from publicly speaking about CM/DyCM posts, the Congress government is facing yet another controversy. This time, the Chief Minister and his family are in the eye of a political storm.

While multi-crore irregularities at the ST Development Corporation resulted in the resignation of a cabinet minister and the arrest of top officials, the demand for a change of guard and the creation of more Deputy Chief Ministers exposed cracks within the ruling party. Now, the timing of the alleged wrongdoings at the Mysuru Urban Development Authority (MUDA) coming to the fore has raised many eyebrows. Union Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s remarks linking it to the fight for the CM’s post drew a sharp response from Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar.

Whatever the reason for the issue to surface now, the latest controversy has put the CM and his team on a sticky wicket. So much so, the CM — a law graduate, who worked as a lawyer in Mysuru before joining electoral politics in the early 1980s — is defending himself aggressively. Some party functionaries are standing by him as he faces the heat from the opposition BJP, which is terming it a multi-crore scam that needs to be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The CM and the Congress leaders claim that there is no wrongdoing in the allotment of sites in an upmarket layout in Mysuru. They contend that the urban development authority had developed sites on the three-acre-16-gunta land owned by the CM’s wife in Kasare near the ring road in Mysuru without even acquiring it. Later when it was questioned, the authority agreed to give sites on a 50:50 basis, but since sites were not available in that layout, it allotted alternative sites in another layout in Mysuru. The CM even went to the extent of accusing the MUDA of encroaching on their land and stated that if the allotment of sites was wrong, it should give them Rs 62 crore compensation instead of their land. The land in question was given to the CM’s wife by her brother as a gift.

The opposition BJP, which has adopted an aggressive stand on the issue and is demanding the CM’s resignation, has picked up many holes in the Congress’ argument. Can MUDA encroach land belonging to such an influential politician? Can it develop and distribute sites without their knowledge? Why was it not questioned when the authority started the process? Who were the officials and politicians heading MUDA at that time and what action was taken against them? The BJP leaders are asking many questions and demanding action against anyone involved, irrespective of their party affiliation.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
BJP urges continued protests until Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah resigns over MUDA controversy

The BJP central leadership is said to have instructed its state leaders to pursue the issue aggressively, both within and outside the assembly, and is closely monitoring the developments. During the party leaders’ meeting earlier this week, BJP National General Secretary Radha Mohan Das Agarwal conveyed the same message, asking them to corner the government on the issue.

Alleged irregularities in MUDA site allotment and ST Corporation are likely to rock the monsoon session of the state legislature starting from July 15. The government is also facing pushback from the contractors who have threatened to stop work in Bengaluru due to non-payment of dues, and state government employees are unhappy over the delay in implementing the 7th Pay Commission recommendation on salary hikes. The Karnataka State Government Employees Association is planning to call for a strike and has convened a meeting on Sunday to discuss the future course of action.

While the emphasis during the first year was on implementing guarantees and preparing the party for Lok Sabha polls, now the focus should be more on development and attracting investors. The government battles one crisis after another. Internal rifts, controversies, and crises could hit the government’s image and slow down the administration.

Political radar

Ramu Patil

Assistant Resident Editor

ramu@newindianexpress.com

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah
Karnataka CM defends MUDA site allocation to wife amid controversy

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