BANGALORE: Drought tourism is the latest in one upmanship in Karnataka politics. While the truculent and combative former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has embarked on a visit to the drought affected regions of the state, chief minister DV Sadananda Gowda has dispatched a ministerial team formed to monitor the drought by touring affected taluks for three days starting Monday. Congress state president Siddaramaiah claims he has already visited drought-hit areas, and declares he would tour more soon; his itinerary is being chalked out. Emboldened by the Udupi-Chikmagalur bypoll victory last month, the Congress is upping the ante in the state; Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge challenged the propriety of Yeddyurappa visiting drought affected areas and summoning state government officers for briefings. The Karnataka government has declared over 120 of the state’s 176 taluks drought affected following poor monsoon.
Yeddyurappa has accused the official machinery of being in deep slumber over the drought. “I am not at all satisfied with the attitude of the officials, including that of the chief secretary. They are accustomed to the air-conditioned environments of their chambers. The chief minister should instruct his officials to rush to help people,” he demanded. The chief minister begs to differ. “The state government has taken several measures to mitigate the plight of the people in such areas. Already over `360 crore has been released and the relief works are progressing at brisk pace,” Gowda said, adding that he would soon visit Chitradurga district, which has been severely hit by the drought. “Already `30 lakh has been released to all districts each to dig and rejuvenate borewells,” he added. State Congress leaders are labeling Yeddyurappa’s tour as an attempt to draw political mileage and weaken Gowda. Siddaramaiah says Yeddyurappa intends to use the drought tour only to unseat his successor.
Meanwhile, Gowda has greeted Yeddy’s travel plans with nonchalance. “I welcome suggestions from any leader, be it HD Deve Gowda, Siddaramaiah, Parameshwar or Yeddyurappa, and implement them. I will not indulge in politics over drought,” Gowda said. Yeddyurappa’s drought yatra has a distinct political tone. “The government must release Rs 5 crore each to all the drought-hit districts, instead of relying upon Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme funds,” he said. He also asked the Union government to grant Karnataka Rs 500 crore immediately to tackle the drought.”
Much political drama has happened following the last few weeks after Yeddyurappa’s reprieve from the High Court. Yeddyurappa held breakfast meetings with legislators while Sadananda Gowda organised a lunch for his supporters. Rallies and counter rallies are happening in the state to felicitate both Gowda and his ambitious predecessor. Yeddyurappa was felicitated recently at ‘Nammabhimana,’ a programme organised by the BSY Felicitation Committee in Bangalore. Gowda turned down a similar programme, saying “I will not attend any felicitation programme. In- stead of spending lakhs of rupees on such programmes, it is better to utilise the amount to tackle the prevailing drought,” he said. He also indirectly ridiculed the Yeddyurappa camp for hiring crowds for the felicitation programmes. “Nothing can be achieved by organising people by paying them. At best, the organisers can get to listen to some appreciative slogans from such a crowd,” the chief minister added. This has prompted Yeddyurappa to cancel all future felicitation meets. Instead, he insists his drought yatras will help him to apprise the chief minister of the ground realities in Karnataka. He also told the BJP high command that he would win 20-22 Lok Sabha seats for the party if he was reinstated as chief minister.
With assembly elections dated for 2013 and the general elections for 2014, the high command’s worry is that the BJP will face a drought both in the assembly and parliament.