Two Hundred Days of BJP-JD(S) Coalition Rule in Karnataka

The two hundred days of rule of the BJP-JD(S)-led coalition in Karnataka is the worst-ever rule that the state has witnessed in the recent period. These days were marked by inner-party dissidence, scams and allegations, failed bid to take over the BMIC project, arm-twisting among coalition partners, etc.

Though Mr.H.D.Kumaraswamy, the Chief Minister, claims to be averse to any ideology – to cover up his opportunism of aligning with the BJP – his coalition partner, the BJP, is vigourously pursuing its ideology. As usual, it has started its reactionary agenda on the education front. The government has ordered segregation of girls and boys in schools and colleges. Gardens in the ‘Garden City' are being monitored for ‘love birds'. Funds are allotted for building temple in each panchayat. When the JD(S) wanted the government takeover of the BMIC project, the BJP put its foot down by opposing it.

The spate of farmers' suicides goes on unabated. Karnataka now tops the list of states with farmers' suicides. The so-called humble farmer's son has nothing to offer to stop the tragedy in the countryside. Recently, on 17th August, four of the agitating sugarcane farmers in Mysore demanding higher price, attempted suicide in the presence of a posse of policemen. The police could do nothing. The government claims that the interest rate has been brought down to 4 per cent in order to help farmers. But farmers' suicide is a larger issue that cannot be addressed by any single measure like reduction in interest rates. An integrated approach that would address the issues of output prices, bank loans, crackdown on private moneylenders, irrigation facilities, cropping pattern, etc., is the need of the hour.

The issue of ‘ Bagair Hukum ' (unauthorized cultivation) lands is not yet addressed. Regularisation of such lands involves decade old demand of thousands of poor farmers and the government has paid no heed to it. A large number of cases related to lands are still pending and the land distribution and dispute resolution mechanism is not functioning. With the amendment to land reforms that relaxes land ceiling to specific purposes, large tracts of lands are being handed over on a platter to the multinational and corporate houses. Reliance and a few multinationals are grabbing large tracts of land in Karnataka, too.

No substantial efforts have been taken to enroll agricultural labourers in the districts covered under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Minimum wage is too low that people are also not interested. The government has not taken any effort to increase the minimum wages.

In spite of being inefficient, the government was very prompt in clamping to a ‘ban on strike' in Toyota car manufacturing plant in Bangalore when the workers formed a trade union to demand their legitimate, legal rights. The government went out of the way to illegally declare a manufacturing unit as a ‘public service' unit and banned strike but not the lockout by the management.

The Chief Minister, along with two cabinet ministers M.P.Prakash and C.Chennigappa, has been accused of taking bribe to the tune of Rs.150 crore from illegal iron ore miners in Bellary district. He was accused by none other than a BJP MLC, Mr.Janardhan Reddy, who is also the Bellary district secretary of the party. Despite being suspended from the party, Janardhan Reddy is sticking to his guns and threatening the CM that he would reveal the documentary evidence only to the media. A section of the state BJP, including Bellary district unit, is solidly behind him. The efforts of Sushma Swaraj to pacify the MLC and restrain him from causing further embarrassment also appear to have gone in vain. The government is still struggling to get out of the crisis.

Another salvo was fired by the Congress leader D.K.Shiva Kumar who released documents to the press related to underpricing of Rs.85 crore worth of property near Bangalore purchased in HD Kumaraswamy's wife's name, while registration. The Chief Minister and his family members have registered the land by only for just Rs.35 crores. Congress leader D.K.Shiva Kumar, hailing from the same region of the CM, claimed that the amount paid for buying the land did not come from selling potatoes and chillies that were grown in CM's land, rather it had come from Bellary mine owners. H.D.Kumaraswamy has been forced to defend himself from all these charges by appointing a judicial commission but adamantly refused an enquiry by the CBI.

The Congress is regrouping itself patiently and desperately trying to regain its alienated social base among backwards, dalits, Muslims and a section of Vokkaligas. Induction of Siddaramaiah, former Deputy Chief Minister in the Congress-led coalition and former leader of the JD(S) and a prominent leader of the backward Kuruba community comprising 14% of the population in the state, is aimed at winning back its influence among the most backwards in the state. A section of Muslims and dalits who went over to the JD(S) are also going back to the Congress because of JD(S)'s alliance with the BJP. The Congress, however, is indifferent to the issues of the people, the toiling masses.

Employment, displacement, housing, wages, regularization of lands and fair price for agricultural produce are emerging as popular issues that need some attention on the part of struggling forces.

– Diwakar and Shankar