Saturday, July 10, 2004

New Government in a limbo

Karnataka's 4-month history: From care-taker govt to care-faker govt
Saturday July 10 2004 00:00 New Indian Express
BANGALORE: Karnataka's IT industry may be on the fast track but when it comes to governance, the State seems to be logged on to a Pentium 2 that Intel did away with many years ago.

First, there was a caretaker government from March 11 till May 28. Having called for elections six months ahead of schedule, S M Krishna had hoped that his fairly stable rule would sweep him back to power. But that was to be his last major decision. As caretaker Chief Minister, the election code of conduct ensured that he could take no policy decision.

The situation continued well after the poll outcome on May 13. With no party securing a working majority, uncertainty prevailed and Krishna was asked to continue till the new government was formed.

The new coalition Government, headed by Dharam Singh, was patched together during the end of May. The caretaker government had given way to a government that did not care. And in those four months, administration stopped moving.

It took the Congress and the JD(S) an unprecedented two weeks to come together. That's not surprising considering that their ideologies are poles apart. The only common ground is to keep the BJP _ which emerged as the single largest party _ at bay. All for the sake of the people.

But even that moral clarity is beginning to go fuzzy at the edges. Where, for instance, is the coalition's Common Minimum Programme (CMP) to run the Government? The only CMP they seem to have is a Crude Manipulation Policy to stay in power. Survival depends on compromise formulae. And ad hocism seems to be the only policy prevalent.

Going by the election manifestos of the two parties _ bitter rivals before the polls _ a unanimous and workable CMP seems a chimera. The two parties did attempt to sit together and firm up the CMP. It should have been in place by June-end _ that's what the government promised _ but there's no sign of it yet. The ridiculous reason is that the government wants to study the impact of the Union Budget on the State Government and then announce it.

The CMP, or lack of it, is just one reason why the government hasn't been functioning the way it should. Another is that months after the present government was sworn in, it lacks a full-fledged ministry. The coalition government has only a 12-member ministry, including the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister. As a result, many departments `function' without ministers.

According to convention, departments without a ministerial head should come under the Chief Minister through a government notification. But no such notification has been issued. And even senior bureaucrats are groping in the dark without political bosses.

The top bureaucracy is lethargic and restive _ it expects transfers and postings any minute now. And the mood in the administration shows in governance. Consider how the Government has been handling major issues, admissions to professional courses being one of them.

Even after 45 days of coming to power, the Government and professional college managements continue to spar on the seat-sharing formula. It has taken the Government 45 days to file an interlocutory application before the Supreme Court on the issue. A helpless student community just looks on.

Another retrograde step by the government is postponing elections to the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) for the third time and extending the arrack auction till August. In both cases, vested interests have come in the way _ both parties want to capture the APMC and corner all the arrack contracts.

But the worst setback, by far, was the Dharam Singh government's decision to stay the formation of Arkavathy Layout, putting on hold 20,000 sites and 2.5 lakh aspirants' dreams. With no convincing reason given, a miffed BDA Commissioner, Jayakar Jerome, has gone on two month's leave.

It's obvious that the action was taken under pressure from the JD(S) _ the party's statements against Jerome do the talking. They seem to be more interested in the welfare of some building contractors than of the people who applied for the sites. The Congress can only bend to the wishes JD(S). To stay on in power, there's no other way to go.


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