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Lack of Flood Relief Fund Forces BJP MLAs to Turn Against Own MPs, Karnataka Govt
Local BJP leaders are unable to face voters who have been living in relief camps and temporary sheds for more than two months now.
The worst-hit Belagavi district of Karnataka during floods. (Image : PTI)
Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concern for Bihar, which continues to grapple with unprecedented floods, has put the BJP government in Karnataka in a fix. After Modi tweeted about the flood-ravaged Bihar and offered help, many in Karnataka questioned why the party that is in power at the Centre and in Karnataka did not come out with funds to help the flood-hit state for all of two months.
The new BJP government in Karnataka is finding it increasingly difficult to face questions on why it did not get any money sanctioned for flood relief from the central government for a long time.
It's been over 60 days since the floods affected 22 districts in Karnataka, with 13 districts being the worst-hit. It was only on Friday that the Centre approved an additional financial assistance of Rs 1,813.75 crore to Karnataka and Bihar. The approval came after Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the ongoing rescue and relief work of all flood-affected states.
The suicide of a farmer in the Chikamagaluru district on Wednesday night led to more outrage against what is being perceived as the Centre's neglect and the state's helpless leadership. Anguished over not having got any compensation for the losses he suffered in the August flood, Chandre Gowda, 55, killed himself by consuming poison. He had apparently taken loans ahead of the cropping season for his one-acre plot of land where he grew coffee and paddy.
The news of his death and reports that initially said Centre has rejected most of the state's demands for funds, led to an outcry in Karnataka, not just among the opposition parties, but even among members of the ruling party.
BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal from Vijayapura in north Karnataka was one of the first to raise his voice.
"I'm saddened by the way our MPs are talking, it is intolerable. I appeal to them, don't talk like this. Go meet the PM and tell him about people's problems. If you talk like this, please remember, BJP will end up losing Karnataka. This is the only state in south India where BJP is in power. We will lose our standing with the dominant Lingayat community in Karnataka where our major vote-base is," Yatnal told News18 in Vijayapura. Yatnal was slapped with a show-cause notice on Friday by the party's disciplinary committee for his statement.
Twenty-five out of 28 MPs are from the BJP and local leaders are unable to face voters who have been living in relief camps and temporary sheds for more than two months now.
Some BJP leaders got further miffed by Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda's recent statement that the Centre will shortly announce mid-term and long-term rehabilitation plans for the state. He also said that those who spread fake news about the Centre not releasing funds are 'anti-nationals.' Angry that BJP leaders who are questioning the MPs and ministers are being termed anti-nationals, Yatnal condemned the remarks.
Another MP from Karnataka put the inability to get central funds squarely on the ministers.
Sreenivasa Prasad, Chamarajnagar MP, told media persons on Friday: "What are our Union ministers doing? Don't test people's patience and don't try to hush up this issue in the name of party discipline."
Every state minister's defence for the delay in central funds has been that they could not be approved as PM Modi was in the US. However, considering that lakhs of people have been living in temporary sheds and camps for two months has led to anger.
The Janata Dal Secular has threatened a major protest next Thursday, when the Assembly session convenes for its first session after the BJP came to power in Karnataka. Many farmers' groups will also be holding demonstrations during the session.
More than 2.1 lakh people have been displaced and an estimated one lakh houses destroyed. Agriculture losses are estimated to spread across 7.5 lakh hectares.
In a dilemma, chief minister BS Yediyurappa on Thursday reviewed the flood relief work in affected regions. But during a meeting in Belagavi, one of the worst-affected districts, he was heard telling the officials, "Where is the money? The treasury is empty here."
Considering Centre's claim that the state government has adequate funds to meet immediate the needs, this statement – which was caught on camera –caused more embarrassment to the government, with the Congress picking on it. "After accepting that your government has gone bankrupt, you have no moral right to stay in power even for a single minute. Please resign and leave the office immediately. Don't punish our people," tweeted Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah.
"No State has been given funds, it is not only Karnataka," said law minister JC Madhuswamy, adding, "negotiations are going on" and funds will be released in two to three days.
Asked about party leaders from within who have questioned the state government's inability to get funds, Madhuswamy said they would sort it out and that it is again just "political propaganda."
(With inputs from Mahesh V Shatagar)
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