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Updated: July 7, 2014 11:22 IST
Corridors of power

What’s so special about seven?

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M.C. Nanaiah
M.C. Nanaiah

Debate over criterion for acting against officials who fail to deliver services

Number seven was the subject of an intense debate in the Legislative Assembly last week. During the passage of the Karnataka Sakala Services (Amendment) Bill, 2014, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T.B. Jayachandra said designated officials failing to deliver citizen-related services within the stipulated time more than seven times would face inquiry and, if found guilty, would be punished.

The Minister was at a loss to explain why the failure of seven times was considered serious enough even as Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa quizzed the government on the logic.

When the Minister failed to give a convincing explanation for fixing the criterion, Laxman Savadi (BJP) said, “I think seven has been fixed based on the acoustics of the Gol Gumbaz, where even a whisper echoes seven times.”

As more members wanted clarity on the issue, the Minister said it was fixed based on the average number of times officials in the Home and Revenue departments generally failed to deliver services.

Unimpressed by Mr. Jayachandra’s explanation, the Speaker asked the Minister why the report against errant officials had to be submitted to the government. “What prevents you from giving powers to officials in the districts to take action?” he said.

With the Minister not providing answers to the Speaker’s questions, another BJP member, Govind M. Karjol, interjected, “Submission of a report to the government is like throwing water into the ocean.” Acknowledging ambiguities in the Bill, the Minister later said the district administrations would empower designated entities to take action against erring officials. But one has to wait and see whether amendments will help timely delivery of services to citizens.

‘Berth’ pangs

Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) affectionately refer to the former Speaker Ramesh Kumar as “official spokesperson for the Opposition in the ruling party”, considering the support he extends to the Opposition during discussion on “important” issues in the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Kumar does not disappoint Opposition members and joins hands with them whenever they try to embarrass the ruling party. Members, and even Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, listen to him attentively when he rises to make a point during the debate. Opposition members desperately seek his support whenever they raise “pro-people” issues.

Though a Congressman, Mr. Kumar often takes Ministers to task “in the interest of the public.” Recently, he put Health Minister U.T. Khader and Minister of State for Medical Education Sharanprakash Patil in a spot by raising uncomfortable questions and asked them to make their presence felt. Mr. Kumar even went to the extent of cautioning Mr. Patil that he would move a breach of privilege motion if he misleads the House by providing wrong information. Afraid of possible consequences, in the light of the strictures passed against Minister for Wakf Qamarul Islam in a privilege motion, Mr. Patil sought time to respond with “correct” details.

This was not the only occasion when Mr. Kumar embarrassed the ruling party. A senior BJP leader attributes this to “disappointment” because the former Speaker, a six-term MLA, has been denied a ministerial berth in the Siddaramaiah government. This is because of a pending case of alleged encroachment of forestland against him.

Nanaiah on moneybags

Known for his Parliamentary repertoire and intellectual integrity, the former JD(S) Minister M.C. Nanaiah, whose six-year term in the Legislative Council ended on June 30, lamented on the last day of his term that moneybags and businessmen were entering the portals of Parliament and State legislatures. Businessmen and realtors having no track record of public service and political expertise have been “booking” seats in the Council using their financial clout with political leaders, he said.

Mr. Nanaiah recalled the former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s remark when he was asked by presspersons about his government’s defeat by one vote in the vote of confidence motion. “There are commodities for sale in the market and brokers too, but I was not ready to purchase them.” In fact, JD(S) nominated T.A. Sarvana, proprietor of a jewellery shop, to the Council. Transport operator Vijay Sankeshwar, Bellary miner Gali Janardhana Reddy and many real estate bigwigs have entered the Council in the past.

Several MLCs cutting across the political spectrum showered praises on Mr. Nanaiah for his contributions. The former Union Minister M.V. Rajasekharan (Congress), K.B. Shanappa and Lehar Singh (BJP), and Basavaraj Horatti (JD-S) summed in one sentence: “There cannot be an alternative to [Mr.] Nanaiah in Parliamentary democracy.”

Mr. Nanaiah, who served in various capacities in government and political parties, promised to write a book on political developments in the State during the last decade. Taking stock of political developments for the last three to four decades, Mr. Nanaiah said, “Politics is a strange coincidence of incidents.” Many people do not know that he was given Congress ticket by the late Chief Minister R. Gundu Rao and the former MP F.M. Khan in 1978, when he became an MLA and served as Minister of State for Excise in the D. Devaraj Urs government.

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