High-octane year for Karnataka government, Parties now pin hopes on LS poll outcome

Now, as the government completes its first year in office, people’s verdict on its performance will be out on June 4, when the results to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will be announced.
Ramu Patil
Ramu Patil Photo | Express

Around the same time last year, after a hard-fought election, Congress won a clear majority in the Karnataka assembly. After hectic parleys in the national capital, Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar took oath as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, respectively, on May 20.

Now, as the government completes its first year in office, people’s verdict on its performance will be out on June 4, when the results to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will be announced. It was indeed a politically charged year for the state government and the ruling as well as the opposition parties. For the people in general, it was a bittersweet year, but it was the worst for farmers hit by severe drought.

It is not fair to judge the state government’s performance based only on the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls in the 28 seats, especially in the state, where the voting patterns for the assembly and Lok Sabha polls are different. But that is how it is viewed now.

The Congress’ campaign in Karnataka was mainly mounted on its government’s performance, especially the implementation of five guarantees which included free travel for women in state transport corporation buses, free electricity, financial assistance to women heads of households, Rs 170 in lieu of an additional five kilograms of rice to BPL families, and financial assistance to unemployed youth.

From day one, it appeared that the entire focus of the state government was on implementing the guarantee schemes and burnishing its report card to maximise its gains in the Lok Sabha polls. Congress leaders are showcasing the Karnataka model to give credence to its national manifesto.

Politically speaking, it did reasonably well on that strategy. However, questions were raised over the effective implementation of those schemes on the ground, its impact on development works and the diversion of funds meant for taking up development works exclusively for people from scheduled castes and tribes. The long-term benefits of such schemes and their impact on the economy are yet to be studied.

Last year, it looked like a period between the assembly and Lok Sabha polls. While Congress kept its state unit fighting fit to do an encore of assembly poll performance in the Lok Sabha elections, the government took on the Centre on various issues, including alleged disparity in the devolution of taxes and drought relief. In an unprecedented move, the CM led a protest against the Centre and the state approached the Supreme Court for drought relief funds. The Center-state relations were strained. Farmers, who were in distress due to drought, were hit by delays in disbursement of compensation.

Ramu Patil
Bomb explosion in popular Bengaluru cafe leaves 10 injured

The law and order issues caused discomfiture to the government. From a blast at Rameshwaram Café in Bengaluru, the raising of alleged pro-Pakistan slogans on the corridors of Vidhana Soudha by Congress supporters, assault on a shopkeeper playing devotional songs to gruesome murders in Hubballi, Karnataka was in the news for the wrong reasons. It may not be prudent to say the law and order situation in the state has deteriorated, but they do reflect the situation on the ground. Even in a sex scandal allegedly involving JD(S) MP from Hassan, Prajwal Revanna, the government should have taken proactive measures to prevent the circulation of videos to protect the identity of victims while initiating stern action against the accused.

All along, the big question the party kept dodging was whether Siddaramaiah would continue as chief minister for five years or hand over the baton to DK Shivakumar. There is no clarity on it yet, but not giving a clear picture to the people of the state exposes the delicate power equations within the party.

On its part, after its drubbing in the assembly polls, the BJP managed to regroup itself to some extent under the new state president BY Vijayendra. But to what extent it has made a turnaround will be known only after the Lok Sabha poll results. Although it is a Modi-centric poll for the BJP, local leaders do play an important role in taking the top leadership’s message to the cadre and voters.

For JD(S), it was a year of challenges and existential crisis. After the poor show in the assembly polls, it was rocked by the sex scandal allegedly involving its MP.

As the Siddaramaiah government enters its second year in office, Lok Sabha results could further strengthen its position, or it may trigger intense political churning in the state.

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