The new chief minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, has his task cut out: delivering fast a transparent, inclusive and efficient administration. Else, the electorate might not back the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
On the eve of the governor’s address, which will underscore the Congress regime’s thrust areas at the joint sitting of the bicameral legislature on Monday, Siddaramaiah spoke to HT. Excerpts:
How soon would your majority in the assembly show on the governance front?
I’ve made it very clear to bureaucrats that the people have voted to see a change in administration. We have to respond to their aspiration.
Will they be made accountable for failures? What about your cabinet colleagues? Hope they’d be measured by the same yardstick.
Bureaucrats will face consequences if they don’t deliver. I’ve made it clear to my cabinet colleagues that they will be held responsible for lapses.
Anti incumbency caused the BJP’s rout. How confident are you of repeating 2013 in 2014?
The sentiment against the BJP was high because of corruption and misrule. We have to give a clean, corruption-less, transparent, pro-people administration.
Are your cabinet colleagues conscious of the challenge?
I’ve told them that not only I personally, but the government on the whole will not tolerate a repeat of the BJP’s maladministration.
How many seats do you give to the Congress in the 2014 polls at this juncture?
Nearly 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.
Could the tally increase as you move closer to the poll date?
We’re expecting anything between 22 and 25 seats.
How do you intend to attain early results in good governance? Bengaluru is an IT hub. If you do well here, the word will spread across the country and possibly help the Congress counter the BJP in other states.
We’ll use technology to take our schemes to the people. Ours will be a modern administration responsive to people’s day-to-day needs.
Will the Centre’s proposed food security and direct benefit transfer schemes help?
Yes. After taking over, my first decision was to provide 30 kg rice at the rate of Rs 1 per kg to every BPL family. The scheme, promised in our manifesto, will be effective from July 1.
The portfolios you have retained seem to reflect your priorities as CM: subjects relating to Bengaluru city, intelligence wing of home, energy, mines and small & medium industries.
Some of the portfolios will go to fresh entrants when I fill the remaining four berths in my ministry. I’ve already given important portfolios to 29 ministers.
Bengaluru isn’t with the urban development minister. It’s under your direct charge. Do you think the city requires the CM’s personal attention?
Bengaluru requires my personal attention. We have to focus on the city by addressing the issues of waste management and infrastructure development at the earliest.
Good governance helps in elections. So do strong social alliances. You are compared with the late Devaraj Urs for having reconstructed the Congress’s Dalit-OBC-Muslim base. Shouldn’t you reach out also to the Vokkaliga and the Lingayat elites to buttress your base for 2014?
All communities voted for the Congress. We have 25 Lingayat MLAs, 18 Vokkaligas, 11 Kurubas, 11 Scheduled Castes besides other communities. It shows that we have the support of all sections including minorities. We are not (caste-centric) like the BJP or Janata Dal-Secular.
Do you foresee BS Yeddyurappa returning to the BJP?
I can’t rule it out. He may go back. At this stage we can’t predict.
What would be your strategy if he rejoins the BJP?
Regardless of who’s with them, the BJP will remain a communal party. We have to check it — that’s our agenda. We’ll not allow it to regrow in Karnataka. You talked about Devaraj Urs. Those were different days. The BJP was nowhere. It has grown since and has also been in power. We believe in social justice. We’ll give protection and equal opportunities to all. We believe in inclusive growth.
Will you pursue cases of corruption against BJP leaders?
People who have wielded power have to be accountable in a democracy. We’ll let the law take its course.
(With Naveen Ammembala)