Vol. 6 | Issue 5 | Aug 2012
Sadanand gowda, former Karnataka cm
‘Many in Cabinet did not back me’
He is a one-man army. He governed 65 million people for 350 days. He held 22 portfolios directly and the rest in proxy. He inherited others’ men in his Cabinet. His personal staff was not ‘his own men’. Pins were pricking him left, right and centre and still he smiled broadly! That is Devaragunda Venkappa Sadananda Gowda of Karnataka. Needless to say he was elected to office with the blessings of the discredited BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa, who has more than a dozen criminal cases of corruption, nepotism and illegal notification, etc., pending against him. But, Sadananda Gowda did not become a puppet in the hands of his mentor turned tormentor. As a lone warrior, he took all the innuendoes hurled at him in his stride, fought the peoples’ war against corruption and gave 350 days of governance with a difference. This was even as his friends had become foes and vice-versa! B Harishchandra Bhat talked to him a day after he relinquished office ‘voluntarily’ at the behest of the party high command. Excerpts:
Gfiles : How does it feel to be an ex-Chief Minister? Are you not hurt by the turn of events?
DVS: As a dedicated worker of my party, I performed my role. The party asked me to run a corruption free, transparent, people-friendly and development-oriented Government. It was the dictum of the High Command. I am proud to say I did my job to the satisfaction of the people and my party. No regrets.
Gfiles : Ten senior ministers had disowned you as their leader and resigned. The other ministers had opposed your candidature to the post. Twenty two portfolios had no caretakers. How did you function?
DVS: Yes, in the absence of permission from my party to expand the Cabinet, I had to look after those portfolios. But I handled them well. Among the members of my Cabinet, 50 per cent were not cooperative. I reviewed their portfolios too with the help of senior officers. I reviewed the working of every department on a monthly basis. I held video conferences with the Deputy Commissioners and CEOs regularly. The State has very efficient officers and they fully cooperated with me. I gave them a free hand and it provided good results. There was transparency and I prevented undue influence. Files were not kept in my office for more than seven days at any time. I had to punish a few officers too, for example, at the drought review meetings at the districts like in Gadag. I did not endorse suspected files even though this resulted in some political disturbance. I did not get due support from a few of my Cabinet colleagues. There was continued resistance.
Gfiles : In hindsight do you regret anything?
DVS: I have no regrets. In fact, I am proud that I succeeded in reducing corruption by bringing in ‘Sakaala’, the Right to Services Act, which set a deadline of 15 days for clearing a file in the administration at all levels. Initially, 151 services in 11 departments were selected for this scheme and during the last three months, 56 lakh applications from all sections of society were received and of them 54 lakh were cleared, leading to at a strike rate of 99.2 percent. I had planned to extend it to the State Secretariat too. The ‘Sakaala’ scheme has reduced corruption in administration to a great extent and I am proud of launching this scheme.
It is gratifying to hear what the Chief Secretary, Mr SV Ranganath, said in
the farewell meeting after my resignation. He listed 38 achievements in just 11 months! I was bowled over by such compliments!
Gfiles : With little experience in administration how could you do all these? (DVS had never been a Minister before holding the office as the Chief Minister)
DVS: I am grateful to late VS Acharya, my mentor and guide. He sat by my side for the first 15 days of chief ministership and guided me. It was a great moral booster.
Also, I was fortunate to have a set of very senior officers like the Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretaries and Departmental heads who guided me in administration.
It is gratifying to hear what the Chief Secretary, Mr SV Ranganath, said in the farewell meeting after my resignation while complimenting my administration. He listed 38 achievements in just 11 months! I was bowled over by such compliments!
Gfiles : Any grey areas?
DVS: The work of streamlining of BPL cards is unfinished. I wanted to extend the Sakaala scheme to the Secretariat level. Development work in the Naxalite prone areas was another thing I initiated. But I am confident that my successor, Shettar, will do the needful.
Gfiles : Did you get your due? What do you now see your role to be?
DVS: I do not have any ambitions. I have got more than what I would have expected from my party. Whatever the party now expects of me, I shall deliver. g