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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 46-47 November 11 & November 18, 2023

Political Leadership in Karnataka : A Brief Overview | P. S. Jayaramu

Saturday 11 November 2023


3rd November, 2023

Karnataka’s Rajyostava took place on 1st november. During the month, Rajyotsava celebrationst take place all over the State. However, most of them are in the form of cultural events, rather than appraisals of the issues related to poliitics, economics and administration/ governance. Here is an attempt to reflect on the major policy initiatives taken by key political leaders, cutting across Political Parties, while they were in power.

Following the dissolution of the Mysore Representative Assembly and the Council in 1947,K. C. Reddy became the first Chief Minister of the State. He was chosen for Office as he had led the Mysore Congress twice from 1937-38 and 1946-47, apart from being a member of the Constituent Assembly. He laid the foundation for the development of the new State. It is seldom known that the Vidhana Soudha Project was initiated by him and carried forward by his successor Kengal Hanumanthaiah.

Hanumantaiah had larger goals set for himself. His vision was to set in motion the process for the Unification of the State by integrating the Hyderabad-Karnatak and Mumbai-Karnataka regions.He was cautioned by some of his friends that integration would result in a diminished role of the Vokkaligas in State politics. But he brushed such advice, rose above caste considerations and as a Statesman prepared the ground for the State’s reorganisation.

S. Nijalingappa stands out as the maker of Modern Mysore. He brought the about the Unification of the State by deftly balancing the pulls and pressures of different regions. The administrative problems of integrating the regions which were following different laws and fecilitating the emotional integration of the people of different backgrounds fell on Nijalingappa’s shoulders. Nijalingappa is also credited with the vision of starting the Sharavathi Hydro electric project. During his time, the State had surplus power. Veerendra Patil who succeeded Nijalinppa was an able administrator. His focus during his two terms in office was on power generation and distribution and strengthening the finances of the State. He produced surplus budgets.

Devaraj UrsYes, who was the Chief Minister from the dominant caste, was also a visionary who brought about land reforms by making the tiller the owner of the land. He set up land tribunals to implement his reform measures. As a champion of the backward classes, Urs not only reserved positions for the OBCs in education and employment, but also forged an alliance with the Dalits to ensure a greater say for them in State politics.

Ramakrishna Hegde, who became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of the State, was another visionary who showed exemplary committment to democratic decentralisation. Hegde-Nazir Sab combine introduced the three-tier Panchayati Raj system by introducing Zilla Panchayats, Taluk Panchayats and Mandal Panchayats at the district, taluka and village level by reserving seats for women in Panchayat bodies.

S. M. Krishna whose Government enjoyed a huge majority focussed his attention largely on improving the image of Bangalore with his emphasis on supporting the IT-BT industries in the capital city. During his tenure, Bangalore came to be referred to as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India. Elevating Bangalore to the level of Singapore too was his wish.

Deve Gowda as Chief Minister during 1994-96, took keen interest in agriculture and irrigation. He started the Upper Krishna Project. His commitment to social justice for women resulted in 30 percent Government jobs being reserved for women. The fourth stage of the Cauvery water project to increase water supply to Bangalore and the 5th and 6th units of the Raichur Power Plants were also commissioned by him. J. H. Patel and Bangarappa were socialists led weak Governments, yet were able to pass progressive legislations. Bangarappa’s Ashraya’ scheme meant for the construction of houses for the poorest, has been continued by successive leaders under different names.

During his two stints as as Chief Minister, Kumaraswamy like his father laid emphasis on agriculture and irrigation. He introduced the novel scheme of ‘grama vastavya’, to provide ‘instant solutions’ to be problems of the poor. He also initiated the practice of having the winter session of the State Legislature in Belgaum, which has been continued by successive Governments.

B. S. Yeddyurappa was the first BJP Chief Minister with his commitment to the cause of farmers, presented the first ever agricultural budget, waived off farmers’ loans, allocated a whopping ₹17788 crores for agriculture related activities like horticulture and animal husbandry and announced free power supply to the farmers. There was a continuity in these Policies during BSY’s second term, before he was replaced by Basavaraj Bommai by the central leadership of the BJP. Bommai, who was a weak leader and did not have a pan- karnatakaKarnataka image, focussed his attention on the implementation of the RSS agenda in the State which finally led to the rout of the BJP at the hustlings in the Assembly elections held in May 2023. Mention must made of Sadananda Gowda’s ‘sakala’ scheme for time-bound clearance of files by officers.

The Congress Party came back to power in 2013 under the leadership f Siddaramaiah. As Chief Minister Siddaramaiah came up with many welfare programmes. Notable among them were the Anna Bhagya providing subsidised food grains largely to the poor, kshreera Bhagya, providing 150ml of milk to school children and a host of other schemes like the Vasati Bhagya to provide shelter to the poor SC, ST families. He also maintained fiscal discipline, thanks to his rich experience as finance minister many times in the past. He has continued with many of his schemes during his present second term as CM, specially the five guarantee schemes to women, the lower middle classes and the youth, though if course as a result of his free schemes, the finances of the state are under severe stress. Critics argue that many of the developmental programmes are under a paralysis.

In conclusion, it may be stated that while in power, most chief ministers referred to above, were visionaries, they also came up with populist programmes to retain themselves and their Parties in power.

(Author: P S Jayaramu is a former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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