Rivals in check, 4 guarantees in place: Siddaramaiah shines in 6-month report card
While 184 days is a short period to evaluate any government, Siddaramaiah is credited with handling problems with his political acumen
He may not have had the smoothest sailing but Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah is widely seen to have performed well as he completes 184 days or six months in office today (November 20).
For one who is not even originally from the Congress, the head of a Congress government has scored many points — keeping at bay both factions within the ruling party and the Opposition.
What has worked in his favour is the implementation of four of the five guarantees the Congress promised ahead of the May elections that ended the BJP’s five-year reign in its only southern bastion.
Although six months is a short period to evaluate the performance of any government, Siddaramaiah is credited with handling problems with his political acumen.
In the process, he has built a Brand Siddaramaiah. Critics, however, say that his hold over the administration could be better.
Though Siddaramaiah’s love-hate relationship with his deputy DK Shivakumar is no secret, both have painted a picture of bonhomie in public, much to the chagrin of the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its new ally, the Janata Dal (Secular).
Both parties are still attempting to implicate somehow or the other Siddaramaiah’s son and former MLA Yatindra for alleged corruption.
After striking an alliance with the BJP after the elections, JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy looks more energised as he repeatedly fires salvoes at a chief minister who was earlier in his party.
Siddaramaiah is returning Kumaraswamy’s volleys with equal velocity. Recently, he and the Congress managed to trap Kumaraswamy in a case of power theft, embarrassing the Opposition leader.
Even critics appreciate Siddaramaiah for not belying the expectations of the people vis-a-vis populist schemes after he took over.
The Congress schemes have earned him much praise in rural areas, ensuring that the party’s support base swells before the critical elections to the Lok Sabha next year.
Besides, he has been in touch with people and addresses their complaints through ‘Janata Darshan’.
Some, however, insist that there are teething problems in the populist schemes and these need to be addressed quickly.
Some Congress leaders, including Yelburga MLA Basavaraj Rayaraddi and MLC BK Hariprasad, continue to make statements that have embarrassed both the ruling party and the chief minister.
A FIR was filed against planning and statistics minister D Sudhakar after a woman alleged assault over a land dispute. But the Karnataka High Court has granted an interim stay on the FIR, giving much-needed relief to the government.
Hariprasad has accused Siddaramaiah of being anti-Dalit, publicly questioning the rationale behind denying the post of deputy chief minister to G Parameshwar, a Dalit leader.
He criticized his own party government over lack of representation for Dalits in key positions.
Though the Congress Disciplinary Action Committee issued a notice to Hariprasad, he promptly got the support of both Parameshwar and Priyank Kharge, son of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.
Problem of drought
But though Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar give the impression that there is no political one-upmanship among them, their vocal supporters openly air their differences.
Shivakumar’s supporters Vijayananda Kashappanar and Ravikumar Gowda keep floating rumours about a change of leadership in the state after two and a half years.
To add to the confusion, Cooperation Minister Rajanna has floated the idea of having three more deputy chief ministers. This proposal is seen as a bid by the Siddaramaiah camp to checkmate Shivakumar, who has portrayed himself as a successor to the chief minister.
PWD Minister Satish Jarkiholi has also staked his claim for the post of chief minister through a seer.
In response to the political turmoil, Siddaramaiah has opted for lunch and dinner diplomacy.
He visited Parameshwar’s house for breakfast and dined with some other leaders.
The Congress sent its general secretaries Randeep Singh Surjewala and KC Venugopal to Bengaluru to put out the fires. Both huddled with Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar and cautioned them against airing their opinions in public.
Currently, it is drought caused by poor rains that is haunting Karnataka. Opposition parties are accusing the Congress government of neglecting farmers’ issues.
Siddaramaiah is instead accusing the BJP-ruled Central government of discriminating against Karnataka by not giving drought relief.