As floods worsen, Karnataka CM’s one-man show deepens crisis

BS Yediyurappa Karnataka Chief Minister - The Federal
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa does an aerial survey of flood affected areas in Bagalkot district of the state. (PTI Photo)

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” The infamous phrase about the Roman emperor who played music while his people suffered, could well come to signify the state of affairs in Karnataka.

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is yet to induct ministers into his cabinet while certain parts of the state are facing the worst floods of the decade.

This has invited jibes from his predecessor HD Kumaraswamy, especially after Yediyurappa returned empty handed from Delhi, where the party high command, which was supposed to give him directions on government formation, had been busy with the Jammu and Kashmir issue and the death of former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on August 5.

The timing at which the Bharatiya Janata Party pulled a coup of sorts to topple the Congress-JD(S) coalition in the state, that was on shaky grounds ever since it formed the government in May 2018, could not have been any worse.

For, when Yediyurappa took oath as the Chief Minister on July 26, the state was reeling under severe drought and Cauvery catchment areas had recorded 40-60% deficit rains.

Farmers in Old Mysore region were hapless, so were Bengaluru residents. But things took a dramatic turn a week later with incessant rains caused floods in 11 districts.

Touring flood-affected districts in the absence of district in-charge ministers or for that matter, any other ministers, the CM looked worried. The rare smile, which the power-hungry 76-year-old Lingayat strongman had while forming the government, was missing as the crisis dawned on him.

Also read: Yediyurappa 2.0: Will it be a rewind of 2008-13?

For, when he was in opposition, Yediyurappa had constantly raised concerns regarding farmers’ debt and lack of water for crops, but now in power, he seems helpless.

The CM has appointed six additional chief secretaries to oversee the flood situation. But the administrators have rued the change in government, which now seems to be in a coma. The officers had to manage the increased security arrangement instead of concentrating on relief works.

On Friday (August 9) when the Chief Minister visited Gadad district, the police, who failed to control the crowd, caned (lathi charged) people who stepped up to air their grievances to the CM.

But what was striking was that the CM continued to sit inside the car and made no effort to stop the police from mercilessly thrashing those who had lost their houses, crops and livelihood.

The video of the incident went viral and the CM condemned the incident but showed no remorse to issue an apology to the people who were beaten up.

“Even if the previous government moved slow, there were ministers who would have handled the crisis better. But this government, which claims to be ‘for the people’, now struggles to put things in order, said a district administrator.”

As of August 10, about 24 people have lost their lives in flood-related incidents. District administrations have evacuated 2.43 lakh people from flood affected areas and provided shelter to 1.61 lakh people in relief camps. Disaster management authorities estimate that 3.75 lakh hectares of crop area and about 14,000 houses have been damaged in the floods. The Narayanapura and Almatti dams on the Krishna river brims with water and are nearing its storage limits.

The previous coalition government led by Kumaraswamy had accused the Centre of not releasing disaster management funds timely. But now, there’s a BJP government in the state and at the Centre. It is a rare occurrence in the politics of Karnataka which has always had different parties at the Centre and the state, and that used to be cited as a reason for the lack of development. The last time when the same party ruled the state and the Centre was 13 years back when the UPA was at the Centre and the Congress allied with JD(S).

Now, when both have the same party in power, Yediyurappa has been trying to project the Centre in a good way by assuring people that the Modi government has promised to extend all assistance to Karnataka.

But the Congress-JD(S) coalition is in no mood to let go of the BJP which usurped its power, and is bent on making it tougher for Yediyurappa to sail through the flood waters.

Perhaps, he should have listened to the words to Congress veteran DK Shivakumar, who said, “Yediyurappa would survive if only he is sworn in along with other ministerial aspirants. Otherwise, the government collapse is imminent. Govinda…Govinda!”