The ongoing legislature session has embarrassed the Congress government on several issues. Not only was virtually the whole cabinet including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah AWOL for a day, but it also had tough questions to answer on a range of subjects including communalism.
Since the recent cabinet expansion three weeks ago, for the first time since the Siddaramaiah government came to power, the state has had its full permissible strength in the cabinet – 34 ministers. Yet, in the first assembly session after that, 30 ministers were missing on a single day.
Not only members of the Opposition, but Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa too lashed out at the absent ministers. Thimmappa pointed out that he had arrived on time even though he was 84 years old. Once, higher education minister TB Jayachandra provided wrong information to the house when a BJP MLA asked a question. In response to another question, the government said that around 40 functionaries of the government, including the chief minister, had spent over Rs 7 crore on renovations of official residences.
On Thursday Congress MLA AS Patil charged the government with failing to appoint even a single doctor in the last two-and-a-half-years. He said that legislators were finding it difficult to save face in their constituencies. He was then joined by BJP and JD(S) MLAs who criticised health minister UT Khader. None of the other Congress members defended Khader, even though he was being hauled up by legislators cutting across party lines.
These lapses come at a time when the state is facing multiple crises.
Karnataka is witnessing one of the worst droughts to have occurred in the last 40 years. Following poor rainfall across the whole state, 136 taluks have been declared drought affected. Although the state government sought a package of over Rs 3,830 crore to provide relief, the centre sanctioned less than half that amount. The Opposition has alleged that in several districts, ministers had not even chaired meetings to initiate drought relief measures.
The situation has been compounded by agrarian distress which is not just prompting farmers to kill themselves, but also to let their crops rot in the fields in several places on account of falling prices.
Another serious problem that the Opposition BJP has targeted the Congress for, is, curiously, the atmosphere of intolerance that currently prevails in the state. On Friday, BJP leaders said that the groups such as the PFI had a free rein in the state, and said that communalism had risen.
Congress MLAs had a counter to this. Ivan D’Souza said that in several instances the government was unable to do anything as the police sided with the accused. When a BJP leader asked how this could be possible when the Congress party was heading the government, RV Venkatesh quoted BJP MLC Ganesh Karnik’s statement in a sting operation conducted by Cobrapost.
Karnik had claimed that regardless of which party was in power in the state, 60 percent of the police force was made up RSS cadre.
When the Siddaramaiah government came to power, it was expected that communal violence would be reined in. However, it continues unabated, and thanks to the government’s botched up organization of Tipu Jayanti celebrations, it may have actually fuelled the fire.
The only saving grace for the Congress government in all this perhaps, is that the Congress party was prudent enough to support the Opposition’s resolution in removing Lokayukta N Bhaskar Rao over allegations of corruption. This could, perhaps be a step towards setting right, the many troubles that plague the people of the state.