The never-ending wait for Cabinet expansion

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah  

An expansion of the State Cabinet is overdue but Chief Minister Siddaramaiah keeps citing one reason or the other to have it postponed. Every time he travels to the national capital, the hopes of several ministerial aspirants get rekindled, as they did last week, too. And each time, the Chief Minister’s stock reply is, “I will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi and discuss the issue.” The first time, Mr. Siddaramaiah promised to fill four vacancies after the by-elections to Ballari and Chikkodi-Sadalga seats were over. That was in August 2014. He then sought time until after Dasara festivities in October last year, and again until elections to gram panchayats are over.

Now that the elections are over, a couple of Ministers thought they scented a reshuffle. They had not met the media for many months but now hurriedly called news conferences to reel off their department’s achievements during their tenure in the last two years.

The Supreme Court’s directions to the government in May to hold elections to the Bangalore City Corporation within three months put paid to that hope, too. The Chief Minister now says the Cabinet will be expanded after the corporation elections. Will there be a Cabinet expansion at all? It is anybody’s guess, say Congress legislators.

Lokayukta under the scanner

An old local adage about the fence eating the crop seems to apply aptly to the State’s corruption watchdog, the Karnataka Lokayukta. The image of the agency, which once proudly enjoyed a squeaky clean image under the tenure of Justice N. Santosh Hegde, has plunged to a new low after Superintendent of Police, Bengaluru, Sonia Narang recently exposed the corruption within.

Ms. Narang’s report to Additional Director General of Police (Lokayukta) Prem Shankar Meena speaks of an incident allegedly involving a top officer of the agency in corruption. The official involved had demanded protection money from a PWD engineer to prevent a raid against him. Embarrassed by the report that some of its officials had sought a bribe and also by the demand of the Opposition to cleanse the body, Lokayukta brass now wants intensive scrutiny of its employees. Besides close monitoring of entry and exit points and strengthening of CCTVs, the agency has now decided to check the antecedents of people coming to meet Lokayukta officials, while the staff has been directed to step-up surveillance. “The government should identify officials who don’t compromise on integrity at any cost and post them to Lokayukta. That’s the only way out,” a senior JD(S) leader said.

Files gather dust

When bureaucrats have additional charge of a department, it is a common sight to see files piled up outside their office, leaving officials in the department frustrated. But what particularly irked officials of the Department of Public Instruction was when a senior official asked department officials to come on a Sunday and dispose of certain pending files pertaining only to granting permission for English medium in schools. The Karnataka High Court had pulled the department up for not sanctioning permission.

However, other files continue to gather dust and pile up outside his office. With a new official having been posted on Friday, officials now hope that the files are disposed of quickly.

Will cane price prove ‘costly’?

The close links between sugar barons and political party bosses in Karnataka is well known. Many legislators and MPs of major parties in the State are either directors or owners of sugar mills. It is this nexus that seems to be the prime suspect in mills refusing a fair and remunerative price to cane growers. The growers are in deep financial crisis and a farmer in Belagavi district committed suicide. The growers, angry with the State government for failing to ensure the promised price of Rs. 2,500 and an incentive of Rs. 150 per tonne of sugarcane for crushing year 2013-14, have threatened to hold rallies and disrupt the legislature session to be held this month in Belagavi, the sugarcane belt of Karnataka. The politically influential sugar barons know very well how to protect their interests, says Karnataka Sugarcane Growers’ Association president Kurubur Shanthkumar. With the BJP alleging that the Chief Minister’s “arrogance” has deepened the sugarcane crisis, the government’s failure to honour the promise of a fair price may cut into the votes of the ruling Congress in the upcoming elections to rural and urban local bodies at the district and taluk levels.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 6:29:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/the-neverending-wait-for-cabinet-expansion/article7316470.ece

Next Story