By Mathihalli Madan Mohan
Where did Sadananda Gowda go wrong that he faced the humiliation of being stripped of a prestigious portfolio of Railways in the Sunday’s reshuffle of the union ministry?
It would churlish to give credence reports that it was a product of non performance or lack of spark in handling a major economic cum infrastructural ministry like the railways which is the only ministry to have a separate budget. For everyone who is aware of nuances of governance knows that six months is too short a period for anybody to make a mark in the prestigious ministry like the Railways.
Perhaps it has something to do with the exact standard of performance set by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, something none of his predecessors had enforced previously.
Narendra Modi has been leading from the front, in maintaining a profile of probity in public life, in maintaining a dress code and norms of behaviour and interalia in being punctual in attending office. While he has drastically cut down the foreign jaunts of the ministers and whenever they are in foreign countries, he has made it mandatory to adhere strictly the national or Indian dress code. The ministers have been strictly to tell adhere strictly to code of conduct, on which depends the image of the government too. He has ungrudgingly pulled up ministers who have violated the norms of public behaviour.
Going by the lobby reports, The No. 2 man Rajnath Singh was not allowed to have his way when he wanted to have his own personal secretary in violation of norms laid down by the Prime Minister that all such appointments have to be cleared by the Appointments Committee. Piyush Goyal one of blue eyed boys of the Modi team was not allowed to go abroad to meet the latter’s daughter Prakash Javadekar, who had sported a jeans pant while going abroad was promptly pulled back to wear something which is national. Another minister who was having a luncheon engagement with one of the top industrials tycoon in a five star Bombay Hotel was made to beat a hasty retreat forthwith thanks to telephone call by Modi.
Gowda being stripped of his weighty portfolio has something to the non adherence to the code of conduct. Two things cooked the goose of Gowda was the report of phenomenal increase in Gowda’s assets within months of his inclusion in the union ministry. The disclosure had been revealed in a study made by an NGO, the Association of Democratic Research (ADR) which keeps a vigil about assets acquired by the elected representatives. Gowda came out with clarification that it was a deal, made earlier before the election, for which he had obtained loan from nationalized banks. But the disclosure had dented the image of the government. Secondly was the legal wrangle in which his son Karthik has found himself about his affairs with a model before tying the marital knots with another girl. The police had registered a case against him and was on the lookout to arrest him, before Karthik managed to move the High Court to get an anticipatory bail. This apparently cooked the goose for Gowda.
This is not merely a personal loss for Gowda but a loss for the state too. By quirk of political circumstance, the Railway portfolio had landed on the lap of Karnataka, when Mallikarjun Kharge became the Railway Minister with tenure of less than a year under the UPA government. And it continued for the next six months with Gowda becoming the Railway Minister in the successor BJP government led by Narendra Modi. That a senior and seasoned BJP politicians and a former Union Minister like Ananth Kumar was ignored and a person who is a stranger to the nuances of the working of the Central Government like Gowda was preferred, was considered as trust reposed by Modi should have cockled the heart of Gowda. Gowda faced arduous twin task of trying to be trued to the trust reposed in him by Modi and trying his best to meet the long ignored aspirations of the people of Karnataka. His home district Mangalore needed attention, since it is torn between Konkan Railway and Southern Railway, with our own railway zone of Karnataka, namely South Western, having not even a pin hole’s presence in the district.
Apparently Gowda had failed on all the three fronts- of rising to expectations of Modi, and of the people of his state and the district. Mallikarjun Kharge was a lame duck Railway Minister. He had just nine months time to perform before the tenure of loksabha comes to an end. He did solid work within the limitations of time, to give a new deal to the neglected Northern Karnataka in general and sub region of Hyderabad Karnataka in particular. He took lot of administrative action to pave the way for making Gulbarga as the new divisional headquarters of the South Western Railway and introduced slew of trains to improve the connectivity.
With Gowda succeeding Kharge as the next Railway Minister, the expectation was that he would take all the schemes announced by his predecessor to the logical conclusion. It is here that Gowda let down Karnataka badly by not taking any major initiative. There was also no progress in bringing his own district served by two separate outfits under a single new outfit as has been the aspirations of the people.
Perhaps Gowda was too overawed by the responsibility that he did not know how to act and in the process missed the bus.
(Posted on November 10 , 2014 @ 06:30pm)
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