A Minister for All? Dismay Amongst the General Classes of Karnataka

There has been a growing sense of alienation amongst the general classes of Karnataka. With majority of the government’s schemes directed towards the rural classes, backward communities and religious minorities, the bourgeois of the society felt left out from the development process. Turning reluctant towards the voting process, the urban youth shied away from the fundamental duty of being responsible citizens. Feeling side-lined, the working class had expressed its disappointment in the form of an inactive participation in the electoral process. With poor turnout ratios recorded in the preceding elections, the lukewarm participation of the educated youth had become a matter of concern for the incumbent government.

Pro-poor image of Siddaramaiah

Fostering a pro-poor image, CM Siddaramaiah has been hailed as the `Robinhood of Karnataka’. Projecting himself as the messaiah of the underpriveleged, the CM has primarily focussed upon the development of the SC/ST and the Muslim communities. Often accused of favouring the religious minorities and the backward communities, majority of his schemes have been directed towards them. Inviting severe criticism, his move to distribute free laptops solely to the SC/ST students in degree colleges, was censured as a wedge between the general and the backward community students. His scheme to distribute free bus passes to school and college students only belonging to the SC/ST community was viewed as a tactic to win over the SC/ST vote bank. Even the Shaadi Bhagya scheme was castigated as a move to appease the Muslim community. The incumbent chief minister of Karnataka introduced several such schemes during his five year term, which drew a lot of flak. These politically motivated schemes were jettisoned as mere tactics of vote bank politics.

Being the first CM to completely waive off all farmers’ loan, Siddaramaiah garnered the support of the rural farmers. Such moves were not criticized as they were felt indispensable for the development of the indebted farming community. But the growing sense of dissent among the urban masses remained unchecked. The urban youth longed for more number of general schemes that would benefit all, irrespective of their religion and caste. They felt that the government shouldn’t play favourites by implementing schemes that would benefit only certain sections of the society. The average working man sensed the paucity of development programmes for the general masses. This disappointment translated into anti-incumbency feelings among the working class.

Taking a leaf out of Amma’s book

Sensing the ire of the public, the ruling party released a promising manifesto during the 2018 General Assembly elections, stressing more upon the general schemes. Whenever it has come to pro-poor schemes, Siddaramaiah has followed the steps of the erstwhile CM of Tamil Nadu, the late Ms.Jayalalitha. The introduction of the Annabhagya Scheme (Rice for all) and the Thotillu Bhagya Scheme (Cradle Scheme) in 2016 had earned Siddaramaiah a lot of popularity. The Ksheerabhagya Scheme (Milk for all) aimed to reduce the dropout rates of school children. These were inspired from the schemes introduced by Amma in TamilNadu. In a similar manner, he launched the Aarogya Bhagya Scheme for the general public in 2017. He also launched the Indira Canteen on the lines of Amma Canteen in 2017. With food being provided at subsidised rates, the Congress had slowly begun to win the hearts of the middle class. But Amma’s populist schemes have been borrowed by CMs of different states in the past during elections. Ergo, his initiatives were viewed as mere poll tactics, bearing no significant economic impact. The Congress’s move was seen as a shrewd tactic to win the polls.

With the Congress’s power having been reduced to just four states in the country, viz. Punjab, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Mizoram, the Nehruvian party just couldn’t afford to lose its majority in Karnataka. But now with the declaration of the poll results, it looks like Congress has miserably failed to win over the general public. Despite a winning manifesto, Siddaramaiah, lost to JDS veteran GT Devegowda in the constituency of Chamundeshwari. Barely managing to win in Badami, Siddaramaiah now has to bid adieu to his chief ministerial chair. The poll outcome has made it clear that the public yearned for a change of government. With the Congress losing the majority, the poll results seem to be a mandate against dividing tactics than in favour of any particular party.

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