June 23, 2023
A month is a long time in politics given the fact that political loyalties and majorities in legislature shift overnight and duly elected governments with proven majorities crumble swiftly. That is the fickle nature of politics. But is a month too short a time to assess the performance of a government. However, a month is enough to see the direction in which a government is headed.
As we know, a little over a month has elapsed since Congress party formed the government with Siddaramaiah-D K Shivakumar as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in Karnataka with a thumping majority of 135 in a house of 224, ousting the BJP that came to power through the backdoor by pulling down the Congress-JD(S) coalition regime in less than 14 months. Unlike the previous BJP rule, Congress succeeded in sorting out all the issues in quick time.
With results of the May 10 assembly polls coming out on May 13, the Siddu-DKS pair was sworn in within a week on May 20 along with 8 other ministers and on May 27 the full cabinet was constituted with the induction of 24 ministers taking the size of ministry to 34 as the State entitled to. Within a day, portfolios were allocated and the government is in place without any hiccups.
However, despite the full backing by the formidable Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo at the Centre, BJP saw two Chief Ministers and was entangled in various controversies, particularly the 40% Commission stink which resulted in its being badly trounced.
While the Congress party has sorted out all its internal problems in less than a month and has even elected a Speaker in former minister U T Khader, BJP is yet to even elect its Opposition leader in the Assembly, which is due to meet for the second time for a new budget for the current year on July 3. With too many contenders for the coveted post, which entails a Cabinet rank and perks, BJP is unable to settle even this minor matter and is evidently awaiting the party high command’s nod.
More than these most essential things, that are mandatory for the functioning of any government, the Siddaramaiah regime has quickly settled down to governance and has already acted on implementing its 5 Guarantees – Gruhajyoti, Gruhalaksmi, Yuva Nidhi, Anna Bhagya and Shakti, which have been already rolled out.
Of the 5 Guarantees, Shakti offering free bus travel to all the women in all government buses within the State was announced last in the run-up to the assembly elections and, ironically, is the first to be launched from June 11. Timelines for implementing the other Guarantees have also been announced. In fact, registration process for the beneficiaries has already commenced in respect of Gruhajyoti and Gruhalakshmi.
First things first: To recap, the Shakti scheme enable all women, including transgender, to travel free of cost in any government operated ordinary and express buses any number of times within the State. Even city bus transport in cities like Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubballi-Dharwad come under the purview of Shakti. However, air-conditioned and other luxury buses are excluded.
Barely a week after its launch, Shakti has become a super-hit. To gauge the success of Shakti, one has to scan the figures. From June 11 till June 20, a little over 5.4 crore women have utilized the benefits of Shakti scheme. In the nine days since the launch, the total amount of concession provided to women works out to a whopping Rs 126.79 crore. Truly, Shakti has given a new dimension to the Stree Shakti or as Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said Naari Shakti!
Under Gruhajyoti, which offers 200 units of free power for each domestic consumer in a month, over 12.52 lakh of people have registered themselves from June 18 till June 21. The benefit will be available from the billing for the power consumption from June 1 onwards and it will be reflected in the monthly bill for the month of July.
The government has, however, put a rider in specifying that the beneficiaries must register themselves through the Seva Sindhu portal through different channels and the free power entitlement is calculated on the basis of monthly average during the last 12 months with a 10% extra over the average so as to ensure that domestic users, who consume less than 200 units in a month on an average, do not go on recklessly consuming more power than they usually do.
Despite the criticism from opposition BJP and JD(S), the restrictions seem reasonable. Just because government is offering freebies, the beneficiaries need to be prudent. There are, however, some glitches in the online registration. Therefore, there is no deadline as of now.
The government has been considerate in ensuring that even the tenants get the benefit as long as their Aadhaar Number is linked to RR number of the respective ESCOMs.
The Gruhalakshmi scheme, offering a monthly allowance of Rs 2000 each per person to each woman head of the family, is again targeted at women.
The Yuva Nidhi scheme is for providing a monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 each to all unemployed graduates and Rs 1,500 for diploma holders, who passed out in 2022-23 and are not able to find jobs for six months, will naturally take time to become operational.
However, the Anna Bhagya scheme for distributing 10 kgs of rice/foodgrains per month per person to all BPL families, has hit a roadblock even before its scheduled launch on July 1. Karnataka is not a surplus rice producer and has to depend on other States and mostly the Central government controlled Food Corporation of India (FCI), for buying the foodgrains under its Open Sale Scheme on payment. As the State required an additional 2.8 lakh tonnes of rice, the government had approached FCI, which agreed to meet the demand. But on the very next day, on the direction of the Modi-ruled Centre, FCI went back on its written commitment to supply rice on the lame excuse that the open sale of foodgrains by FCI has been stopped.
FCI’s refusal to honour its written commitment, evidently under pressure from the Modi regime to cancel the sale, has already resulted in a slugfest between the State Government, Congress and BJP. While the government has already contacted neighbouring States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana besides AAP-ruled Punjab and Congress-ruled Chattisgarh to meet the deficit, which are yet to fructify, the Chief Minister as well as Food Minister K H Muniyappa have already met Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who has reportedly promised to take up the issue with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.
Meanwhile, State BJP leaders, including former Chief Minister Bommai, Union Minister Shobha Karandlaje, State BJP President Nalin Kumar Kateel and BJP National General Secretary C T Ravi, have threatened to launch an agitation if the Anna Bhagya scheme is not launched as promised from July 1 while Yediyurappa has gone to the extent of declaring that BJP will stage protest even if 100 gms of less rice is given. Obviously, it is a tug of war between BJP and Congress with the latter asserting that the government will launch the scheme, come what may, even if a little late.
To make things difficult for BJP, the Congress government has already decided to scrap the controversial amendments brought in by Bommai rule to the anti-conversion law and withdrawn the controversial inclusions and deletions made by BJP in the text books in a clear signal to the people that the pro-Hindutva and anti-minority stance will be a thing of the past. In addition, the government has decided to probe into all the hurried projects sanctioned by the Bommai regime months before the elections and investigate all irregularities or ‘’bogus’’ payments.
As things stand, the Siddaramaiah government not only has secured the support but even won the hearts of the people through its actions in the last one month. The big challenge, however, is deliver on the promises and prove its mettle through performance.