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BJP ministers plot a coup as drought dries up Karnataka

July 03, 2012 11:32 IST

On the one hand Karnataka Agriculture Minister Umesh Katti, Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Rural Development Minister Jagadish Shettar are plotting the fall of Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, while on the other hand the state continues to reel under drought with 123 taluks declared as drought-hit.

Drinking water is scarce, the kharif and rabi crops have failed with an estimated loss of Rs 4500 crore. But where are the ministers in charge? Very much in Bengaluru and New Delhi thinking more about the protection of vote banks and who would become the next chief minister.

Shettar, who may well take over as the next CM if BS Yeddyurappa has his way, hails from North Karnataka. He is one of the tallest leaders in that area, and the people had placed a lot of faith in him when they elected him. However, he has spent most of his time in Bengaluru in the Yeddyurappa camp dishing out the numbers to show his party's leadership the kind of support he has and why he should be the next chief minister.

Now the fact of the matter is that the interior parts of northern Karnataka have recorded the lowest rainfall since the past 33 years and over a 100 taluks in this belt have been declared as drought hit.

The point that Shettar is missing is that the same farmers who have voted for him from North Karnataka are migrating as labourers to neighbouring states in search of jobs to feed themselves and their families.

Bagalkot and Bijapur districts in north Karnataka have witnessed the worst draught in the past four decades.

While the opposition in Karnataka is trying its best to derive political mileage out of the situation, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has its own share of problems. Ministers have not visited their constituencies in many months now. They are too busy guarding their respective leaders and chalking out plans to oust the chief minister.

While North Karnataka continues to be the worst hit in the state, the situation around the capital city of Bengaluru is no better. In the rural areas around Bengaluru, such as Chickballapur, and neighbouring areas such as Tumkur and Kolar, the surface water sources have dried up. The crops failure is so bad that it would take a minimum of at least three years for the farmers to recoup from the situation.

Loans are not paid, cattle have no fodder, children have no water and instead of looking up to their government they have decided to look up to God.

While the men are trying to get some work as labourers the women spend most of their time walking miles to fetch a pot of water. In Kolar Thimmasandra taluk the only hope for water is from a borewell which is situated four kilometres away from the village.

Women walk this far and even then it is not easy as they have to wait at least two hours in line for them to get their share of water.

Although drought is not a manmade problem in Karnataka, the issue that most of the farmers are raising is that they do not even get to see their respective ministers who should be with them expressing solidarity.

"They need to be with us and look at our situation," says Lakshmi, wife of a farmer in Kolar. The situation in the water basins of Krishna is nothing to smile about. The biggest reservoir Almatti too has recorded 23 TMC less water this year which has ensured that the water sources have dried up in the state.

In Belgaum, Bagalkot, Dharward, Gadag, Haveri and Dharwad (all in North Karnataka), water continues to be supplied through tankers. There are nearly 100 tankers which supply water to these places, but it is hardly enough to meet the demand.

The situation in Hubli-Dharwad is another clear example of bad governance. These twin cities from where Shettar hails has 65 wards of which only five get proper drinking water.

The rest of the wards depend on tap water which again is available once a fortnight. In other areas of North Karnataka such as Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, drinking water is available once in 15 days; and what is worse is that most of the time the water available is high in salt which is not suitable for consumption.

Interestingly, none of the ministers are even available for comments on these issues as the focus is only on hardcore vindictive politics. Ask them about the possibility of a change in CM or even what transpired in Delhi with the central leaders, they pose for hours before the cameras giving their version of the story.

Then of course there is usual blame game on the allocation of funds from the Centre, which according to them has been slow to come, as a result of which they cannot serve the people.

Some people say that if one calculates the magnitude of the scams that have rocked the Karnataka government ranging from illegal mining to de-notification of lands, it is easily some Rs 100 thousand crore. If only this money was put to better use the people of the state would not have been in this situation.

Moreover, the government does not appear to be learning or even listening to the people. There have been these mandatory state tours by the leaders. However, they are quick to return to Bengaluru and plot the next move against their own government.

Each time there is a crisis in the government, it is the leadership from Delhi which comes down to pacify the leaders following which they have this great posing for the cameras and promising the people of the state to look into their problems.

Well, it is all short-lived and 15 days after the assurance it is back to plotting yet again.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru