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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

1 yr later, festivities scrapped, Bommai’s tenuous hold on CM post continues

Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai said his conscience did not allow him to proceed following the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Bellare. BJP national president J P Nadda was scheduled to attend.

A decorated arch with posters of PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah installed as part of preparation ahead of the celebration of completion of three years of Karnataka BJP government, at Doddabalapur near Bengaluru. (PTI)

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai cancelled celebrations to mark his one year in office on Thursday, to be held as “Jan Utsav (festival of the people)”, following the murder of a BJP youth leader in the sensitive Dakshina Kannada district of the state.

To BJP watchers in Karnataka, the last-minute cancellation was in line with Bommai’s uncertain reign at the top, with one eye always looking over his shoulder. The first anniversary of the Bommai government, and the third of the BJP’s, was to be celebrated with a convention showcasing its “achievements” and sound the bugle for the 2023 state polls. Bommai said his conscience did not allow him to proceed following the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Bellare. BJP national president J P Nadda was scheduled to attend.

A week ago, for example, Bommai carried out an expansion of the Chief Minister’s Office, bringing in several new faces, including an IRS officer. One of the rumoured reasons for the expansion was a growing litany of complaints from BJP legislators, workers and even RSS leaders that a large number of files are pending clearances in the CMO, resulting in the issue being escalated to the party top brass.

The CM has been criticised for prioritising proposals made by him in the state Budget in March this year, while ignoring hundreds of files on other issues.

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“There is a sense of indecisiveness,” an official said earlier this year about the BJP government’s record on taking decisions.

Bommai took over as CM on July 28, 2021, in the wake of the exit of BJP supremo B S Yediyurappa, at the instance of the BJP high command. However, the possibility of the BJP leadership replacing him with a more decisive leader has been constantly hanging over his head since October 2021, when speculation emerged of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unhappiness with him.

The Central leadership has even stalled the CM’s bid to induct a full Cabinet for the whole of his tenure, despite over a dozen visits by him to Delhi.

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Consequently, Bommai has been wary of taking any decisions on governance, including appointments to state bodies, without holding consultations with the party leadership.

At the same time, the fact that the BJP has not replaced Bommai is a testament to his staying power, and his success in keeping the party and RSS leadership largely in good humour.

One way Bommai – still considered an outsider to the BJP ethos, having grown as a leader in the JD(S) – has done so is by burnishing his Hindutva credentials. His government has been quick to take action on cases of attacks on right-wing Hindutva activists, while dragging its feet on attacks on Dalits, minorities and other backward groups. Recently, a committee set up by the state recommended large-scale changes in school textbooks in line with the Hindutva thinking, though the government had to later backtrack following protests.

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Bommai has also managed to keep dissent at bay, unlike his predecessor and once mentor Yediyurappa, who made a lot of enemies by sidelining leaders perceived to be opposed to his leadership.

In a major administrative measure, the Bommai government issued orders for implementation of nearly 90% of the proposals from the Budget for the year.

While there have been charges of corruption, the CM has managed to float above them, with none linked to him personally.

The allegations include bribes to the tune of 40% of the value of all contracts awarded to private firms – made by the Opposition and a contractors’ association — and a major scam in the recruitment of police sub-inspectors. In recent days, the Karnataka High Court has made scathing observations on probes in high-profile corruption cases involving IAS and IPS officers. The government tried to contain some of the damage by arresting an IAS and an IPS officer.

The Congress had labelled the anniversary celebrations to be held by the Bommai government on Thursday, which now stand cancelled, as a “Bhrasht Utsav (festival of corruption)”. “Forty percent commission politics in Karnataka is the only achievement of the BJP. If we look back to assess the progress in Karnataka since 2019, it becomes clear that Kannadigas have suffered due to rampant corruption,” former CM Siddaramaiah of the Congress said Wednesday. “The BJP has not tried to fulfill even 10 per cent of its promises from its manifesto for the 2018 polls.”

First published on: 28-07-2022 at 01:28:34 pm
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