Centre releases ₹1,200 cr flood relief after BJP workers rebel in Karnataka

Karnataka floods, BS Yediyurappa, flood relief
Caught in a helpless situation, Chief Minister Yediyurappa sought different departments to divert funds earmarked for other programmes towards flood relief works in the northern region (PTI File)

The central government on Friday (October 4) sanctioned ₹1,200 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund as flood relief for Karnataka. This comes in the backdrop of several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers raising concerns over the indifference shown towards the state in the time of need.

The opposition parties too had latched on to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet earlier this week, in which he had mentioned about the government’s assessment of flood situation in Bihar besides assuring all possible assistance, while totally ignoring the situation in Karnataka for the past two months.

This lack of attention towards the state’s need of flood relief was turning the tide against the ruling BJP. Chief Minister Yediyurappa too seemed helpless, having to battle internal indifferences and at the same time trying to convince the Centre, which was unrelenting to release funds.

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The ravaging floods in August had affected seven lakh people across 22 districts in the state, and had damaged about 2.47 lakh houses. As many as 84 people lost lives during the floods. The state had initially estimated the loss to be around ₹38,411 crore, but later, it excluded the private buildings and the final estimation was around ₹3,290.

Also read | In flood-hit Belagavi, relief efforts put politics to shame

The Chief Minister had announced a relief of ₹5 lakh for completely damaged houses and ₹1 lakh for those partially damaged ones. However, the Centre’s ₹1,200 crore, in addition to the stat’s immediate outlay of ₹837 crore, still remains paltry when compared to the initial estimation of damages.

After the funds were released, the state unit of Congress slammed the central government stating that it was a humiliation for the people of Karnataka.

“People of state are humiliated with the allocation of ₹1200cr as against the state govt assessment of ₹35000cr. This shows that the centre has zero confidence on @BSYBJP (Yediyurappa) govt & doesn’t believe him. Kannadigas patience is put to severe test from @narendramodi on a regular basis (sic),” said Karnataka Congress in a tweet.

The delay in funds had resulted in a major embarrassment for the ruling BJP as people in north Karnataka started questioning them over their ineffective measures despite having 26 MPs from the state.

After the government failed to get immediate flood relief from the Centre, the opposition, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), too tried to capitalise on the situation and direct people’s anger towards the ruling dispensation.

With no sight of funds even after two months (until Friday evening), and with rains still battering several parts of the state, the BJP workers in north Karnataka, who were affected by the floods, and their elected representatives raised their voice against the party leaders.

To make matters worse, the sitting MPs were directing the state to handle the situation themselves and not approach the Centre for help. The saffron party also took action against anyone who questioned the Centre’s motive.

BJP’s central disciplinary committee on Friday issued a show cause notice to Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, one of its MLA from north Karnataka, for questioning and criticising the Centre’s lackadaisical approach to flood relief in the state.

Also read | Rebel MLAs in Karnataka face backlash in flood-affected districts

Yatnal, the BJP MLA from Bijapur, had earlier criticised the newly-elected MPs saying it was their job to approach the Centre and get flood relief, rather than just sitting in Bengaluru and Hubballi. He had also criticised the party leadership stating that it had not come to power by fluke, but due to the hard work of leaders like him and they should not be taken lightly.

Meanwhile, union minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Thursday allegedly blocked Chakravarti Sulibele, founder of Yuva Bridage, an organisation linked to the BJP, from questioning the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lack of support. Gowda even went on to call Sulibele a traitor, sparking a war of words on Twitter.

Subsequently, the people of North Karnataka and the Congress’s social media cell started tweeting with the hashtag #NotfairModiji, making it a trending topic on the microblogging website. Sulibele, a social worker turned entrepreneur, enjoys considerable support in the north Karnataka region.

Gowda, after facing criticism from his own party workers and political analysts, soon withdrew his comments and said he had not blocked Sulibele and it was only a technical error.

Also read | Kodagu grapples with rain, landslide and extreme weather

Caught in a helpless situation, Chief Minister Yediyurappa sought different departments to divert funds earmarked for other programmes towards flood relief works in the northern region.

The government even took action against officials for not following the orders. It recently transferred an IAS officer, Rohini Sindhuri, for refusing to allow diversion of funds accumulated for the welfare of construction workers. Though Sindhuri had cited Supreme Court guidelines that does not allow such diversions, she was ousted for not following orders.

Before the funds were released in the evening, former Chief Minister and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy had alleged that there was a lack of trust between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister.

“When I was the CM, there were flood in Kodagu (in 2018) and Modi had then coordinated (with me). But now, the Chief Minister’s inability to meet the PM shows the level of trust between the two,” Kumaraswamy told reporters in Mysuru.

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