North Karnataka throws special challenges for Basavaraj Bommai

Mahadayi issue, Upper Krishna Project and regional imbalances are among them

July 29, 2021 02:00 am | Updated 02:00 am IST - HUBBALLI

A file photo of the Mahadayi in Belagavi district.

A file photo of the Mahadayi in Belagavi district.

As north Karnataka rejoices over the elevation of a man from the region to the Chief Minister’s post, there are expectations galore from people who often say they receive “stepmotherly treatment” from those in power.

Basavaraj Bommai, who took oath as the 30th Chief Minister of Karnataka on Wednesday, is the eighth leader from the region to occupy the post. And he is the second leader from north Karnataka after Jagadish Shettar to hold the Chief Minister’s post within the last decade. But unlike Mr. Shettar and his father late S.R. Bommai (1988-89) who got just over nine months at the helm of affairs, Mr. Bommai is likely to have a longer tenure of 22 months.

The fact that Mr. Bommai knows the problems of the region right from his father’s days as Chief Minister and that he himself was part of various movements that highlighted the regional imbalance have only increased his responsibilities.

From a Youth Janata Dal leader to an MLC of the Janata Parivar and then switchover to the saffron party, Mr. Bommai’s journey to the top post has been gradual. Mr. Bommai has the experience of working with stalwarts such as H.D. Deve Gowda, J.H. Patel, Siddaramaiah, and of course under three Chief Ministers of his own party (B.S. Yediyurappa, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, and Jagadish Shettar) and this very background of him makes people expect more from him for the region.

As a Chief Minister from north Karnataka, the first and foremost issue that would haunt Mr. Bommai is the long-pending issue of sharing Mahadayi river waters, which is still caught in the legal wrangles despite a verdict from the tribunal. He once led a mammoth ‘padayatra’ on the Mahadayi issue.

The other big challenge is the Upper Krishna Project (UKP), for which, despite tall claims about larger allocation, Karnataka is yet to come up with projects for full utilisation of the allocated share of waters from the basin. There is a mismatch between the fiscal and physical progress in the UKP which needs urgent attention and mobilising huge funds for the project and rehabilitation is yet another challenge.

Also, despite a lot of talk about addressing regional imbalance based on recommendations of D.M. Nanjundappa committee, the issue still requires a focussed approach from the government.

A study from Dharwad-based Centre for Multi Disciplinary Research has found that there has been no significant development in the backward taluks identified by the committee.

While Mr. Bommai has managed to emerge as a consensual candidate for the post, there are several hurdles on his path, particularly concerning the place he hails from.

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