The socio-political volatility prevailing in North Karnataka, leading to a demand for the bifurcation of the state, snowballed into a major controversy, baring the motives of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government. The coalition stands exposed, particularly after Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy presented his budget last month. The Chief Minister complicated the situation with his comment: “You did not vote for me, so you will not get anything from me.”
Voices of the coalition partners are more audible now in North Karnataka as it is represented by over 98 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and 12 Members of Parliament (MPs), besides a strong voter base in 12 districts. On the coast, where the coalition partners have been routed, the voices are subdued against the discrimination of the government.
The general opinion of political observers on the current situation in Karnataka can be summed up thus: ‘This is what happens when an unholy nexus is forged with an eye for grabbing political power citing ideology, and ending up weakening the office of chief executive – in this case, the Chief Minister. Too many players at the top shatters the power centre, rendering the system weak’.
Political groups are pulling the state apart, turning the socio-political situation volatile.
The Constitution of India, in its directive principles of state policy, prescribes strict norms for utilisation of the state’s resources – it has to be equitably distributed. But, in the recent state budget, several regions that have not contributed to the strength of the ruling coalition have been left out. “You are a contender for power from a certain party only till you are elected. After that, you are the representative of all people irrespective of who they voted. This is the simple logic of the democratic process,” says Siddarama swami of Naganur Rudrakshi Mutt.
“Why would we want a separate state? There is no need for it, but we see the decentralisation of power, allocation of budgetary finances have not been equitable, which is why we want a separate administrative set-up, not statehood,” the swami says.
North Karnataka Horata Samiti (NKHS) president Bheemappa Gadad is piqued about the neglect of the North Karnataka region. “Twelve districts of the North Karnataka region have been neglected by the present government. Our youths have no jobs, our cities, towns, and villages lack infrastructure, connectivity, and, in some places, electrification. There is hardly any large industry being cleared to this region.
Gadad goes on: “The government is still romancing the development of Bengaluru. That city gets fabulous sums of money. I remember, the budget of 2016-17 had given Rs 1,500 crore to Bengaluru, while cities like Hubballi, Belagavi, Dharwad had got just Rs 100 crore each. What kind of justice is this?”
The Samiti has even come up with a flag for a North Karnataka state, comprising 12 districts.
The movement for the formation of a North Karnataka state appears to be lopsided for religious reasons. Fifty-six religious institutions belonging to Veerashaivas and Lingayats have joined forces to push the politicos to take it forward. The North Karnataka Bandh, called on 2 August (Thursday), has hinged on how the mutt heads of both sects of Shaivas look at it.
Siddarama swami of Naganur Rudrakshi Mutt says the decentralisation of political and economic power in the state has not been completed. “This is evident in how the panchayati raj institutions are managed and funded. Even urban local bodies are not suitably funded, due to which they are not able to take up developmental work. But carving out a separate state was not the panacea.”
If the huge gathering in front of the Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi, which was laced with different hues of saffron, is any indication, the politicos might be preparing for a gambit. Bharatiya Janata Party state president B S Yeddyurappa has not made any conclusive observation on the bifurcation of the state. “The Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had made damaging remarks showing the North Karnataka and its leaders in bad light. He is not just a chief minister for the JD(S)-Congress coalition government but also for the entire state. Just because his coalition partners and his own party did not get representation in the North Karnataka region, he should not discriminate against those areas while charting out a development plan. This attitude has hurt the people of North Karnataka badly, which has erupted in the form of a demand for having a state of their own. The onus of this movement totally rests on Kumaraswamy’s shoulders,” Yeddyurappa told Swarajya.
The swamijis leading the movement have also pointed an accusing finger against the MLAs and MPs who represent the region. “They did not do much. They were complacent and inactive to a great extent. While Bengaluru hogged all of the funding, representatives of the people of North Karnataka were happy with pittance. However, the central funding on various account heads kept the region going,” Chandrashekar swamiji of Hukkeri mutt opines. “But at this point in time, we must give time for the coalition government to take a fresh look at NK [North Karnataka]. They deserve a chance for mending their ways.”
With every passing day, ever since Sriramulu made that statement, equations have been changing among political groups. The JD(S) thinks the BJP was angling in troubled waters for gaining an advantage for the 2019 election, while the Congress was using it to create a piquant situation for the JD(S). It could be recalled here that 12 days of intense politicking had taken place when Siddaramaiah had stayed in the nature cure facility in Dharmasthala when MLAs of North Karnataka had met him and had closed-door conferences with him.
Siddaramaiah playing truant?
Siddaramaiah is known to have been at loggerheads with Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy right from the days when he was in the JD(S). His popularity in the party had spooked both Gowda and Kumaraswamy and his exit from the JD(S) was engineered subsequently. Eventually, Siddaramaiah did survive in the Congress and now he is accused by the JD(S) leadership of weakening the coalition government, and the North Karnataka regional imbalance is an opportunity for Siddaramaiah to accuse the JD(S) leaders.
The JD(S) leaders and the Congress party’s own anti-Siddaramaiah groups are now hopeful that Gowda will step in and calm the storm over the North Karnataka region. He, however, is silent on the issue so far.
Raghuram hails from coastal Karnataka and writes on communal politics.
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