While the new Karnataka government is getting all the praise for getting its act together, the BJP is yet to set its house in order
With the swearing-in of Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar and others on Saturday, a new chapter has begun in Karnataka’s political history. The oath-taking ceremony got national attention because of the participation of the satraps of opposition parties including the secessionists PDP, NC and DMK. This is the first time in Karnataka a swearing-in ceremony was attended by all major national and regional parties from all over the country. The new government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah got into business within minutes of assuming office and gave a green signal to five of the poll promises the Congress had given to the electorate.
It is expected that the new government would soon rescind the decision of the BJP government which had banned the hijab from all educational institutions and set free hundreds of Islamic youth who have been languishing in prisons on charges ranging from extremism and terrorism. But there are some unanswered questions that both the Congress and the losers BJP owe the people.
Islamist leaders had told the media that there was an understanding between them and the Congress that there would be a deputy chief minister and five ministers from the Muslim community in the government to be formed by the GOP. The community members would be given plum portfolios like revenue, home, PWD and higher education. The Congress leaders have not denied this statement made by the Muslim community leaders. Similarly, it was reported that the tenure of Siddaramaiah would be for 30 months after which Sivakumar would be elevated as chief minister. Though party strongman K C Venugopal who masterminded the election campaign as well as the picking of candidates ruled out any such arrangement. Days before the new government took over, the Central Government appointed Praveen Sood, a Himachal Pradesh-born IPS officer as the director of CBI, India’s premier investigation agency. Sood the chief of Karnataka Police was probing the corruption charges against Shivakumar. What will happen to those cases (last heard, there were 12 cases!) is anybody’s guess. Shivakumar had assured the electorate that he would send Sood to prison after the assembly election was over,
Venugopal has also made it clear that Shiva would continue leading Karnataka Congress as its State chief till the Lok Sabha election which is likely to take place in March-April 2024. The Muslims voted en masse to the Congress on the assurance given by the latter about the induction of community members as deputy chief ministers and five ministers with important portfolios.
The run-up to the election saw a massive outflow of leaders (including a former chief minister and deputy chief minister) from the BJP to the Congress. Jagadish Shettar, the former CM, said he was insulted and disgraced by RSS leader B L Santhosh, the de facto BJP chief of South India. According to BJP leaders in the State as well as in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, B L Santhosh, addressed as Anna by his sidekicks, had set his eyes on the post of Chief Minister. It was to smoothen his high-speed journey to the national capital that he cut to-size leaders like Yeddyurappa, Shettar and Shobha Karandlaje. Santhosh, described as the head of the Brahmin Mafia, calls the shots in BJP. The contrast between the leadership of Congress and BJP is that while the former has leaders with direct contacts with grass root level workers, self-appointed RSS chieftains like Santhosh have no knowledge about ground realities. For them, voters too are Swayamsevaks, those destined to work selflessly and suffer silently. The Karnataka BJP reminds one of the novel Oliver Twist immortalized by the main protagonist and the villain Fagin. Well, politics and political parties should always get fresh air and ideas.
(The writer is special correspondent with The Pioneer)