Deena D'silva | Jun 10, 2018 | 7 min read
Mandya: In the run-up to the assembly elections in Karnataka in May, president of Janata Dal (Secular) H D Kumaraswamy pitched himself as a leader of the farmers, campaigning aggressively around agrarian issues and dangling the pie that farm loan waiver has become in Indian politics.
It came as a surprise therefore that JD (S) ministers failed to secure any of the key portfolios that address farmer issues such as Irrigation, Agriculture or Rural Development. In fact, chief minister Kumaraswamy kept as many as 11 portfolios with himself but none of them related to agriculture or rural issues.
Goose that lays the golden eggs
Earlier this week, the Kumaraswamy cabinet in Karnataka inducted 25 ministers, 14 from the Congress, nine from JD (S) and one each from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP).
The JD (S) has been allocated portfolios which are generally considered as revenue generating, including finance, excise, public works department, power, tourism, education, transport, general administration department, intelligence, planning and statistics, and information.
Animal husbandry and fisheries, minor irrigation, horticulture and sericulture are the only portfolios with JD (S) that directly relate to farmer issues. The Congress is in charge of over 20 ministries, including irrigation, agriculture, sugar industry and rural development.
Disappointment writ large
Shambhunahalli Suresh, president of Mandya district unit of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), said that there was disappointment in the farming community as many were viewing the portfolio allocation as JD (S) renegading on its promise.
“Before elections, JD (S) had claimed to be the party of farmers and villagers, but it has not managed to get portfolios that are directly related to agriculture and rural sector. Instead, its leaders have lobbied to secure revenue-generating portfolios,” he said.
Mandya, a drought-hit district, has witnessed 400 farmer suicides since 2012, figures with the department of agriculture revealed.
Suresh claimed that in the same period, at least 100 sericulture growers have ended their lives after import of silk from neighbouring countries hit their trade and they were unable to repay crop loans.
While in the opposition Kumaraswamy was vocal in blaming Siddaramaiah-led Congress government for not managing the severe drought that has affected the state for the last few years and for failing to prevent farmer suicides.
Suresh added, “There were expectations that Kumaraswamy would keep agriculture and related portfolios.”
During campaigning, Kumaraswamy spoke about issues that affected the rural electorate. He talked of Mahadayi water dispute, Cauvery water sharing issue and Kalasa Banduri canal project between Karnataka and Goa. He promised that his party would waive off farmer loans within 24 hours of coming to power.
His promises seemed to have worked as the party won 38 seats in the assembly elections with majority of the votes being secured from rural areas.
Priya Ramesh, a social activist from Srirangapatna, said, “Wherever he visited, Kumaraswamy promised to uplift farmers. He even shed tears at public places when speaking of issues related to farmers. But now his party has taken plum portfolios.”
Some of the voters’ anger has spilled on social media. Mahadeva, a resident of Kallahalli village in Mandya, said, “Memes and messages on social networking sites are being shared on how voters have been duped.”
Manjula, a resident of Kothathi village in Mandya, said that farmers were also upset after the state government slashed the procurement price of milk by Rs 2 a litre with effect from June 1.
“This was an anti-farmer move which has hit nearly 24 lakh milk producers across the state,” she said.
JD (S) said that it was aware that there was some resentment among the populace after the portfolio distribution.
A senior party functionary said, “We have seen the messages being circulated on social media. The party will try to balance this by securing chairmanships of major boards and corporations that are directly linked to farmers and rural Karnataka.”
Will CM micromanage?
The JD (S) members in Mandya said that the party was committed to uplifting farmers and the rural community. The JD (S) said that Kumaraswamy recently convened a meeting of the farmer leaders in Bengaluru and assured them that he would fulfill his poll promises, including loan waivers for farmers.
D Ramesh, president of Mandya district Janata Dal (S), said that CM Kumaraswamy might not have farmer-related portfolios but he would manage all developments.
“So what if JD (S) does not have agriculture, rural development and other major portfolios directly related to the agricultural sector, it has the Chief Minister to control and monitor all developments,” he said.
Another JD (S) member said that the party had chosen portfolios that would help it boost its urban voter base ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
Cong spots opportunity
In JD (S)’s reluctance to handle portfolios related to rural issues, its coalition partner Congress sees an opportunity.
Former minister and Congress’ district unit president for Mandya M S Atmananda said, “JD (S) ministers have portfolios like agriculture, rural development, housing, social welfare, labour among others. All of these are considered public welfare portfolios. The Congress will happily utilise the opportunity to serve the society as it has been doing for decades.”
Listing the achievements of the former Congress government, M. Mahesh, councillor of Mandya City Municipal Council, said that it had spent over Rs 10,000 crore to repair waterways across Mandya district and also repaired crest gates of the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) reservoir with the financial assistance of the World Bank.
“The Congress government spent more than Rs 40,000 crore to address irrigation woes across the state. Hundreds of lakes were rejuvenated through the Kere Sanjeevini programme. Through schemes like Krishi Honda and Pashu Bhagya, online trading of agricultural produce were introduced by Siddaramaiah. Housing schemes were rolled out for the benefits of the poor among other measures,” he said.
Other political experts said that time was ripe for the government to initiate measures to help drought-hit farmers.
KRRS leader Jayaram from Pandavapura said, “The state has been blessed with good pre-monsoon showers this year. The government should take advantage of this by initiating measures like rejuvenation of lakes, increasing water storage capacity and providing quality seeds and fertilisers to farmers.”
Captions and Photo Credits:
Mandya_101_HDK_Celebrations: Janata Dal (Secular) workers celebrating the swearing in of H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister in Mandya town on May 23, 2018. – Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_HDK_Sweets : Janata Dal (Secular) workers celebrating the swearing in of H.D. Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister by distributing 10,000 ‘laddus’ at Bevuru village of Channapatna taluk of Ramanagara district on May 23, 2018. – Photo Credit : Special Arrangement
Mandya_101_HDK_Roadshow_01 : H.D. Kumaraswamy conducting a roadshow seeking votes for the Janata Dal (Secular) candidates in Mandya on April 28, 2018. – Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_HDK_Roadshow_02 : H.D. Kumaraswamy conducting a roadshow seeking votes for the Janata Dal (Secular) candidates in Mandya before the election. – Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_HDK_Padayatra : Janata Dal (Secular) workers participating in a padayatra - from Bengaluru to Mysuru to seek support for H.D. Kumaraswamy in the May 12th election – in Mandya on April 08, 2018. – Photo Credit : Special Arrangement
Mandya_101_HDK_Kumaraparva_Nagamangala : The ‘Kumara Parva’ electioneering rally in which former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, H.D. Kumaraswamy and other JD (S) leaders participated in Nagamangala of Mandya district on March 30, 2018. – Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_HDK_Urulu_Seve_01 : Janata Dal (Secular) worker R. Krishna performing “urulu seve” – praying for the victory of former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and other party candidates – (before the elections) at Sri Bannari Amman temple at Pandavapura of Mandya district on May 05, 2018. – Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_Shambhunahalli_Suresh_KRRS_01: Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Shambhunahalli Suresh. – Photo Credit : KRRS
Mandya_101_Shambhunahalli_Suresh_KRRS_02: Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Shambhunahalli Suresh. – Photo Credit : KRRS
Mandya_101_Priya_Ramesh : Social Activist Priya Ramesh of Sriragapatna. – Photo Credit : Priya Ramesh
Mandya_101_Dried_KRS : Dried Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) reservoir. Photo Credit : Deena
Mandya_101_Paddy_Crops : Withered paddy crops near K.R. Pete of Mandya district. - Photo Credit : Deena
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