Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai made a passionate pitch at the closing ceremony of the three-day Global Investors Meet (GIM) summit in what appears to be a last-ditch attempt to be seen as an able, efficient and transparent administrator by corporate India and perhaps his own party ahead of the next year’s polls in his state.
Much like the young start-ups trying to attract attention towards their product, the 62-year-old leader made an hour-long speech by intertwining statements on social and economic reforms, equilibrium in society, caste prosperity in the hope of securing much-needed political capital.
In the process of highlighting his own ‘achievements’, Bommai appeared to be even deriding the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments of the past, including that under his mentor and predecessor B. S. Yediyurappa, as well as those of the opposition.
“This investor summit is much much more important than the previous ones,” he said, embellishing his statements with adjectives like “extraordinary” and “daring”. The Karnataka CM even rebuked a member of the audience, possibly a delegate, for talking during his speech.
“What Karnataka thinks today, India thinks tomorrow,” the chief minister said, adding that the state had a “very, very serious government” that aimed not just to make a show of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) but convert the same into on-ground investments.
Deflecting attention from infighting, graft charges?
Under pressure over growing allegations of graft, crumbling infrastructure and lack of development on his watch, Bommai has tried hard to deflect attention away from the glaring problems like infighting within his own government and a challenge to his authority as the elections approach.
Bommai said that in the four previous editions of GIMs, the conversion rate of MoUs range between 8 per cent and 44 per cent.
In the GIM first edition in 2000, he said, only Rs 12,000 crore out of the total Rs 27,057 crore was realised while only 14 per cent of the over Rs 3.94 lakh crore was realised in 2010. In 2012, out of the promised over Rs 6.77 lakh crore, only 8 per cent was realised and in the last edition in 2016, only 15 per cent out of the overall Rs 3.05 lakh crore was realised.
The BJP was in power during the 2010 and 2012 GIMs under B.S. Yediyurappa and D.V. Sadananda Gowda respectively, which makes the attacks that much more interesting as Bommai tries harder to emerge out of the shadows of his former mentor and be seen as the BJP’s face of in Karnataka.
His speech was apparently not just aimed at his detractors outside the conference venue but also some of those on the same stage. Industries minister Murugesh Nirani has for long nursed the ambition of being seen as a serious challenger for the top job in the government.
Nirani is from the dominant Panchamasali sub-sect of the Lingayats, and influential seers from the community have intensified their demands seeking better reservation opportunities and a chance for a member of their own to be considered for the top job. Even senior BJP leader and ousted minister K.S. Eshwarappa had said that Nirani would become the chief minister soon.
Bommai, meanwhile, said that no government would reveal low conversion rate of MoUs signed during the summits. “I want to bring transparency, and I want to be honest to my people and all the investors. Of the total MoUs worth Rs 9.8 lakh crore so far, projects worth Rs 2.83 lakh crore have been cleared already, which is 29 per cent realisation,” he said.
“Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes [while] trying to camouflage, we defeat ourselves. Therefore, I believe in that [honesty]. I’ve been very candid, I can be more candid but I don’t think it is necessary now,” the Karnataka chief minister asserted.
(Edited by V.S.Chandrasekar)