BJP Grapples With Karnataka Mess
BS Yeddyurappa is an angry man these days. It’s not as if he was not so in the past. A spirited and challenging bid to return as Karnataka Chief Minister has been unsuccessful. It was clear that the BJP’s central leadership was divided on his return to the top post, particularly after he opted for “resort politics” to exert pressure on the high command to yield to his demand.
Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda has earned a reprieve by default. It’s no secret that top leader LK Advani is strongly reluctant to giving the position back to Yeddyurappa. Party President Nitin Gadkari and Arun Jaitley are sympathetic towards him. The two are on record that the grounds on which he had to quit as Chief Minister eight months ago no longer exist.
Yeddyurappa has been pushing his case for the last three weeks after the Karnataka High Court quashed an FIR against him vis-à-vis Lokayukta report on illegal mining and his patience soon ran out.
And a couple of days before the crucial budget session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly was to begin, Yeddyurappa shifted his loyalist MLAs and Ministers to a resort on Bengaluru outskirts, demanding convening of a legislature party meeting within 48 hours to elect a leader (himself).
BJP central leadership sought to placate him and buy time but Yeddyurappa raised the stakes by fielding a rebel candidate, BJ Puttaswamy, who had served as Political Secretary to Chief Minister when he was at the helm, in the recent Rajya Sabha elections from Karnataka to drive home the point that he meant business this time.
That Puttaswamy’s nomination was rejected as he was holding an office—he continued to be Political Secretary to Chief Minister (Sadananda Gowda) at the time of filing it—is a different matter. Ten MLAs had signed his nomination even though one of them, Aravind Limbavali, withdrew it later. Puttaswamy was suspended from BJP for “anti-party activities” by state unit President KS Eshwarappa.
Further, MLAs and Ministers supporting Yeddyurappa boycotted the opening day of the budget session, embarrassing the ruling party in no small measure. Yeddyurappa sent only a small group of legislators supporting him in a “token gesture”. But a “carrot and stick” policy by the central BJP leaders made Yeddyurappa yield and give up his rebellion for now.
Uneasy truce now prevails in the ruling BJP government. Sadananda Gowda, who was in fact propped by Yeddyurappa when he had to quit, has said that the central BJP has made it clear that there is no leadership change. He has the backing of Eshwarappa, who does not see eye-to-eye with Yeddyurappa and senior party leader HN Ananth Kumar, a bete noire of Yeddyurappa. Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa hail from the same Shimoga district and have been at loggerheads at times.
Yeddyurappa wanted to present the budget himself but that was not to be. The budget, presented by Sadananda Gowda, was significant as its size crossed the Rs one lakh crore mark for the first time, farmers were proposed to be given interest-free short-term crop loans of up to Rs one lakh, while welfare programmes of backward classes got Rs 1,000 crore allocation.
It’s no secret that they were Yeddyurappa’s ideas and he wanted to take credit for all of that and spearhead campaigning in the next year’s election, due in May, on those initiatives. Now, his thunder has been stolen by Sadananda Gowda, who himself is trying to come out of Yeddyurappa’s shadow and emerge as a leader in his own right.
In fact, just as Yeddyurappa has been indulging in “caste politics” of trying to consolidate “Lingayats” as a strong vote-bank for the party, Sadananda Gowda is trying to woo the “Vokkaligas”, another dominant community in Karnataka.
Yeddyurappa enjoys the support of about 65 MLAs out of 120, including the Speaker, belonging to the ruling BJP. “Vokkaliga” Minister BN Bache Gowda, a staunch Yeddyurappa loyalist once, is now in Sadananda Gowda’s camp. A group of some ten MLAs, led by Balachandra Jarkiholi, has openly backed Sadanada Gowda and warned that they would resign from the Assembly if Yeddyurappa returns as Chief Minister.
On his part, Sadananda Gowda has made it clear more than once the party leadership has told him in no uncertain terms that they are not considering leadership change.
A born fighter, Yeddyurappa is unlikely to sit quietly and see himself getting marginalised. The party’s Karnataka strongman, having demonstrated his hold over the legislature party, is smelling blood and is expected to continue his brinkmanship once the Assembly session is over.
The fact that Yeddyurappa did not campaign for the party in the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha bypoll has not gone unnoticed. The party lost the seat, which was vacated by Sadananda Gowda after he was elevated to Chief Ministership, miserably to the Congress. The huge victory margin surprised many.
Yeddyurappa said sarcastically: “Sadananda Gowda has said I am facing eight more cases in courts. I don’t want to embarrass him by campaigning in Udupi-Chikamagalur.” Yeddyurappa wanted to prove a point without him, the party cannot expect to put up a good show.
It’s a headache time for BJP central leadership vis-à-vis the mess in Karnataka, from where the party had targeted to bag 20 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections. To achieve the objective, senior party leaders are fully aware that they want Yeddyurappa in good humour. After all, he is a mass leader and a vote catcher and has the potential to wreck the party’s prospects.
The party wants to set the house in Karnataka in order sooner rather than later. Accommodating Yeddyurappa in a key position in Karnataka is the question now but will he get the Chief Minister’s chair? It is difficult to say but it appears that the odds are loaded against him now. But, as they say, one can’t be sure in politics. Any thing can happen.
By Rajesh Rao from Bengaluru
A Confident Health Minister Affirms
GUILTY WILL BE PUNISHED
A die-hard Samajwadi Party supporter, Uttar Pradesh’s 77-year-old newly elected Medical, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ahmad Hasan knows that he has been entrusted with very important and very difficult departments, but he is confident that he will be able to handle them with elan.
The multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) scam in Uttar Pradesh, which took place during the regime of former Chief Minister Mayawati, tops the list of priorities. A probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which led to many senior officers heads being rolled, also saw half a dozen ‘mysterious deaths’ of several persons associated in one way or other with NRHM, including, two chief medical officers—Vinod Arya and BP Singh, deputy CMO YS Sachan, Shailesh Yadav the deputy chief medical officer of Varanasi, Sunil Verma, an NRHM project manager with the Construction and Design Services (CDS) and accountant Mahendra Sharma of Uttar Pradesh Health Department.
Reiterating that while the Samajwadi government would not work with any political vendetta the Minister however made it clear that anyone obstructing inquiries in the NHRM would be dealt with firmly. Hasan said that the CBI team probing the matter would be provided with all help by him and his staff to speed up the investigations.
“Till now the previous government, involved in the scam purposefully delayed in providing information to the investigating officers and thus purposefully delayed investigation. But now all assistance will be provided to CBI to uncover the truth,” said Mr Hasan in an exclusive interview to Uday India.
“The guilty will be punished not spared and sheltered like in the previous regime,” he said.
On the proposed World Bank grants for health department Ahmad Hasan said that his team was already working on the issue and they would have to reestablish his credibility as the Mayawati government had misused the funds diverting them to society with no auditing. He further said: “Now these grants will come to the government and every penny will be accounted for. The funds will be properly utilised and there will be total accountability.
Commenting on the clean sweep by his party in the 2012 Assembly elections he said: “The Indian electorate stood up against Mayawati like they had stood out against Indira Gandhi after the Emergency. This was bound to happen. I could see it and I had even told this to the media.”
When asked about the three-hour sermon given by Mulayam Singh to elected ministers urging them to follow discipline and party dictate the Minister said: “I really liked it. Netaji was very firm and harsh and drove home the point that anyone breaking rules will be dealt with sternly.The guilty will not be spared and indiscipline will not be tolerated at any cost and from anyone.”
FISHING IN TROUBLED WATERS
Hard times for fishermen in Odisha
By Sudarshan Chhotoray From Bhubaneswar
The endangered Olive Ridley Turtles (lepidochelys olivacea) have just started laying eggs in Odisha coast; marine fishermen are assisting forest officials and volunteers to protect the turtles. But far from their conservation efforts, they have been subjected to fishing ban during turtle breeding and nesting sessions. This has cost them dearly.
Though Government of Odisha has announced some compensation packages including livelihood securities, these are far from the reality. Due to absence of a proper policy to protect the marine fishermen both inside the sea and on the coast, they are subjected to innumerable sufferings for no fault of theirs.
Because of the rigid conservation mechanism their livelihood is under stake. Despite repeated representations and reminders government has simply turned a blind eye to their day-to-day problems.
Odisha coast which is the home to 26.37 per cent of state’s population and 18.25 per cent of state’s geographical area with its 482-km-long stretched coastline spread over six coastal districts is endowed with rich natural resources along with fisheries, mines, minerals and forest resources. The untapped and unexplored coastal resources fall prey to climatic adversaries, frequent natural disasters and ill-conceived development projects.
For millions of rural artisans and coastal communities, it has been the dual threat of growing degradation of natural resources and increasing government control over resources and ecological services. As a result of which they have been living with constant fear of nature’s fury and fast losing their livelihood.
That’s why the known developed and dominant coastal region has the poverty ratio of 32 per cent against the state average of 47 per cent. They are more prone and exposed to ecological threats than other regions of the state with the ever-changing climatic conditions, besides upcoming development projects in terms of Ports, Steel Plants, SEZs, Jetties, Hotels and large Tourism Projects.
Such has been the situation in coastal areas that thousands of coastal artisans, salt workers, fishermen both marine and Chilika have left the area for Surat, Mumbai, Kerala and Bengaluru in search of alternative jobs.
The situation further aggravated following illegal land encroachment by prawn mafias and intervention of non-fishermen in fishing activities, the conflict between conservation and livelihood, surging sea and above all land acquisition for $12 billion POSCO Steel plant, Dhamra Port, Gopalpur Port, Dhamra Rly line, Gopalpur Tata Steel Project etc. The Government of Odisha also planned to set up 12 more ports in coastal areas besides the existing three ports. These port projects are part of proposed 187 ports in the country. Environmentalists have expressed serious reservations on these port proposals.
More than two crore traditional fish-workers (including two lakh active marine fishermen of Odisha), living in 400 coastal blocks spread over ten coastal states in the country, are on an agitation to demand implementation of their 42-point charter of demands. These are agreements that have already been reached between different governments and the National Fish-workers’ Forum (NFF), as well as cabinet decisions or recommendations of different commissions and high-powered committees. Among these, the prominent demands are the implementation of 21 recommendations of Murari Committee, which were approved by the Central Cabinet on September 27, 1996.
Among the major recommendations of the Murari Committee were: Ensuring an adequate supply of fuel at subsidised rates to fisher folk, the formulation of marine fishing regulations in the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an end to joint ventures with foreign entities, and banning foreign fishing vessels from Indian waters, the establishment of a fisheries ministry at the Centre, the withdrawal of Aquaculture Authority Bill, implementation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification and ensuring “traditional and customary right of the fishing community” in the coastal zones, an end to legislative attempts to dilute CRZ notification through amendments and an end to attempts to displace fisher people from coastal zones and islands like Jambu and Khirisai of Odisha, cancelling all the fishing licenses to foreign vessels issued by the Commerce Ministry and enacting legislation to give the right to own and manage water bodies, fish resources and fishing implements to the fishing communities that depend on them for a livelihood.
According to Mathany Saldhana, Chairperson of NFF, the “do or die” agitation has already begun, followed by street corner meetings, public meetings and state-level seminars. Saldhana further stated that, like land reforms, there should be aquatic reforms in the country to give fish workers the right to own and manage water bodies, sea, river, lakes, lagoons and dams, apart from owning and managing fishing implements, boats, nets and the distribution of fish. In addition, there should be a proper fisheries management policy to include the fishing community for the conservation of resources and marine ecology and to tackle increasing corporatisation.
The struggle for a Marine Fishing Regulation Act (MFRA) and its implementation has been a long-standing one. Though the Mazumdar Committee recommended that the Parliament should enact the MFRA in 1978, this has not been done even to this day. Instead, the Marine Fishing Regulation Model Bill was sent to the states to enact the same. The response from the coastal states has not served the intended purpose. The Murari Committee recommended that the Marine Fishing Regulation should be regulated by legislation enacted by the Parliament.
A good quantity of seashells is also obtained during fishing. When they reach the beaches of Tamil Nadu, the living matter in them is dead. A ban which effectively disallows the collection and use of such material that reaches the shore makes no sense.
“It is absurd that the central government takes recourse to the Wildlife Protection Act instead of having a marine fishing regulation in coastal economic zones”, argues Kusa Behera, a human rights student of Berhampur University.
According to him, “Let the Wildlife Protection Act be used to protect the forest, and marine fishing regulation in the Exclusive Economic Zone which would protect life in the waters of the sea.” Behera further added that over-exploitation by highly effective mechanised fleets (foreign trawlers and super vessels) caused serious depletion of catch per unit for the traditional marine fisherman.
Similarly, the risks involved in the sea for fisher folk are increasing due to cyclones and other natural calamities. Millions of them have been rendered homeless and have lost their boats and nets, following the super-cyclone that struck the Odisha coast in October 1999. “But they have yet not received cyclone compensation”, said Narayana Haldar of Mahakalapada village of Odisha’s cyclone-affected Kendrapara district. With no alternative employment, thousands of them are living in conditions of semi-starvation and thereby facing an uncertain future. “There is a need for a sea-safety mechanism and a long-term action plan to restore their livelihood”, argue experts.