Right from the day, the Indian National Congress kick started its campaign for Assembly Elections in Karnataka, the party has been caught on the wrong foot on numerous occasions. It all started with a divisive election promise of granting minority status to the Lingayat community, went on to phony television debates where both, JD(S) and INC (that formed a post-poll coalition) came across as sworn enemies, to a long-wait rife with uncertainty, before the INC JD(S) announced a cabinet.
However, the political drama in Karnataka did not end there. In fact, the saga of unending governance woes had just begun to unfold.
One of the electoral promises of the Karnataka Government was to waive loans of farmers in the State. More than six months after the results, farmers in Karnataka are yet to receive a single rupee. As per a newspaper report 43 lakh farmers were promised a waiver of up to Rs. 2 lakh and till now only 800 farmers have been helped. In fact, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy went on record to say that the process of collection of statistical information related to farm loans is still being processed.
Quick to dish out a political controversy of a technicality, while the Chief Minister blamed Central Government for being a road block, the fact is that loans that need to be waived off have become NPAs and the Karnataka Government has asked banks to share the burden by writing-off a part of the principle. Pressure to expedite the farm loan waiver exercise on Karnataka mounted after the three newly elected Assemblies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh announced the same. Clearly, this promise is proving to be just eyewash for the farmers in Karnataka.
In the previous week, the Congress-JD(S) Government in Karnataka increased tax on petrol and diesel to 32% and 21% respectively. The absurd reason given for this increase has been the adverse impact of continuous decline in the prices of crude oil in the international market on State revenue.
- However, even in July 2018, the Karnataka Government had proposed to increase taxes on petrol from 30% to 32% and diesel from 19% to 21% in order to fund the promised farm loan waiver. However, it was rolled back on account of various reasons.
- In September 2017, when global prices were moving upwards, it was the Karnataka Government who attacked the Central Government for not doing enough to provide relief to its citizens. The State had then reduced tax rates on petrol to 28.75% from 32% and diesel to 17.73% from 21%.
So, it appears that the reduction in the fuel prices is merely for political reasons rather than welfare of the citizens.
There has been a deluge of increase in tax rates since the coalition Government assumed office including:
- Taxation on consumption of electricity increased from 6% to 9%; tax rate on consumption of energy increased from 10 paise per unit to 20 paise per unit
- The motor vehicle tax on private service providers increased by 50% for omni buses and private sector vehicles under lease agreement with the industrial undertakings.
It is the same coalition Government that now in its bid to fill State coffers has decided to deprive Karnataka citizens of the benefit from the decline in fuel prices, and reverse the change in tax rates. This move has not only exposed the inability of the Karnataka Government to generate revenue from sources other than tax on fuel, it is also highlighting the anti-citizen stance of the Chief Minister, who also happens to take care of the Finance portfolio in the State.
Moreover, this is representation of the blatant hypocrisy of the current day Opposition. It would have been interesting to see how the Opposition, including the coalition partner, INC reacted, had this increase in tax rates emanated from a BJP led State like Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh.
Violence and Social Negligence
Political violence has enjoyed tacit inaction in Karnataka by the current and previous regime. However, it is becoming clearer that the top leadership is an accomplice to the unrest that has engulfed the State.
- Several BJP workers have lost their lives due to political rivalry in the State. During the election campaign in May 2018, even the Prime Minister took cognizance of the situation and appealed to Karnataka’s BJP Yuva Morcha Karyakartas (workers) not to react to such condemnable instances, and maintain law and order in the state.
- In December 2018, none other than the Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was caught on camera, as he said on phone that the miscreant be shot mercilessly, in response to murder of a local party leader. Such despicable conduct by the top leadership reveals the kind of mindset where violence is an acceptable means of governance.
- In a police raid, 52 Dalit and tribal persons, including 16 women and 4 children, were found enslaved in a small shed in Hassan area of Karnataka. While the police has lodged FIR for wrongful confinement, theft, sexual harassment of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Bonded Labour System (Abolition Act) and the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act), one is amazed at the silence of activists who frequently ‘choose’ to hit the streets and hold the Government accountable for every atrocity.
- More than six months after the Government assumed office, case related to the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh continues to remain work-in-progress.
News reports of power struggle between JD(S) and Congress leaders are regularly observed. With lack of a political will to take the State economically and socially forward, it is unfortunate that a State with relatively better socio-economic indicators has fallen prey to such a myopic agenda-driven politics motivated only by money and muscle.