He was a lawyer and a dyed-in-the-wool politician
Year 2014 saw a changing phase in India’s political history. Fol- lowing that there have been a great revolutions in the central and the state governments of the nation. The shift in the politics was well received across the nation but for Karnataka. While BJP swept the nation through its saffron flag, Karnataka as a state couldn’t come in terms with the existing BJP team, instead two parties (JDS and Congress) came to coalition to lead the state as joint affairs. MR. Siddaramaiah and Mr. Kumar Swamy who were fighting the tug-of-war for CM managed to rub shoulders together in forming what’s called “Hung Government” in the 15th assembly elections. This defiance against the BJP costed them the power itself when the public disowned their rule and eventually B.S. Yeddyurappa became the chosen CM for the State of Karnataka.
Whilst the happenings ever since 2014, Karnataka has seen major deviations from progression. The state that was once known as the silicon hub of the nation turned into a politically wretch. Bangalore (Bengaluru) turned into a political slugfest for few weeks and hence the “hung Government” came to an end with B.E. Yeddyurappa as its current CM.
In all this unrest, there has been a void in the minds of citizens caught between too much information or too many confusions. However, the intellectual strata Bangaloreans’ missed the “progressive state” brand that was associated with the State (especially Bangalore) ever since the dawn of 2000. This reminds us of the technology and the innovation that set its foot in the then developing-metro Bangalore. Until then the last known recall as a reformist and revolutionary Chief Minister of Karnataka was Mr. S M Krishna (Somahalli Mallaiah Krishna) ; a lawyer by profession and a staunch politician started his political career in 1962 (Praja Socialist Party).
SM Krishna hails from Somanahalli in Mandya district the heart bed of Cauvery studied in the United States, graduating from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and The George Washington University law School in Washington D.C, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He was locally called as the “Oxford Krishna” for his academic achievement. SM Krishna belonged to the very popular community in Karnataka, especially from the Mandya region- The Vokkaligas. This community is not just considered as the prime sect but also are the most contributors in Karnataka Politics to this date. SM Krishna played a key role reconciling Praja Socialist Party with the Indian National Congress . This turned his political career and gave him the requisite to cover the political mileage. He joined the congress party post the coalition and server as the minister of state for industry under Indira Gandhi and ministry of state for finance under the able guidance of Rajiv Gandhi. He then served as the speaker of “Karnataka Legislative Assembly” before he adorned to be the deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka under M. Veerappa Moily.
SM Krishna was popular for his diplomatic yet astute businessman approach. He moved with a sway that wooed the locals for his intelligence and wit. He too was considered at par with the then CM of neighboring state Mr. Chandrababu Naidu and thus found his niche in implementing new technology and cutting-edge innovative solution in Karnataka, Bangalore. While he honored the position as president of Karnataka Pradesh congress committee, it is heard that SM Krishna kept his circle closed and in best of Bangalore classes. He was an open- minded administrator with a vision for the state, hence he is also known as the visionary CM in the state. He would always accompany himself with Bangalore’s best businessmen, educated clout and pool of well-educated and exposed civil service seniors as advisors. Thus, he got the brains and the bastion to lead the party and won the assembly elections in 1999 and went on to become the favorite Chief Minister of Karnataka state until 2004. To this day, SM Krishna’s key impetus comes from these hand-picked advisors, communities and solicitors. His drive as the chief minister was technology and it is his commitment towards technology that marks his uniqueness. He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms of building sub-ways, flyovers, cable bridges etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science- flourished under his administration. He was backed by the best in class intellectuals who not just assisted SM Krishna in achieving his vision but also backed him in his economic affairs, thus Bangalore became one of the major contributors to country’s GDP through IT and Bio- technology.
The main declarations behind the fiscalised development model were the increase of growth rate and re- structuring of public finance. These declarations should not be considered as means for only economic restructuring rather they have been designed with an agenda to ‘redefine the role of the State’. The portion of public expenditure in GSDP got reduced from 23•3 % to 19•45% between the year of 2002 – 03 and 2013 – 14 BE (Gayithri 2014). The decreased public expenditure indicates reducing role of the State especially in the organization of public systems. Karnataka jumped into e-governance bandwagon to ensure effective service delivery. It is one of the most progressive states in utilizing the benefit of ICT (Information Communication Technology). It established a computer center way back in 1971 to computerize govt. departments. various e-governance schemes have been introduced to make information accessible to the people and increase efficiency of the govt. works. Bhoomi (land records), Khajane (treasury system), Kaveri (land registration), Mahiti Centre (IT Kiosks) are few of the exam- ples of successful e-governance projects (KDR, 2007).
Furthering his career from being the CM he served the nation under various administrative roles. He moved on to become the Governor of Maharashtra (2004 to 2008), before he returned to his homeland and participate in active state politics. However, upon his successful entry in Rajya Sabha he was drawn as Union Cabinet Minis- ter of External Affairs in the Council of Ministers under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 22 May 2009 until October 2012. He represented India as Foreign minister and visited Israel on a two day in 2012. The Israeli PM deemed this visit by Krishna a historical step forward in developing the relations between the two nations.
Samuel C. Rajiv is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi wrote “EAM S.M. Krishna’s visit to Israel, marked by both positive atmospherics and substance, was an important political effort on the part of the two governments to further consolidate the burgeoning bilateral relations, which stands on three pegs—economic, defense, and people-to- people contacts. Among the deliverable achieved during the visit include the signing of an extradition treaty and India agreeing to the Israeli proposal for opening a Consulate in the hi-tech hub of Bengaluru. High-level political and strategic engagement as exemplified by Mr. Krishna’s visit is essential to better understand each other’s concerns regarding difficult foreign policy issues as well as conserve the momentum in the bilateral ties for mutual benefit.”
He is considered as the tech-icon of the country to have implemented state-of-the-art civil infrastructure in terms of building sub-ways, flyovers, cable bridges etc. He was instrumental in enabling IT infrastructure in the state, IT biggies such as Infosys and Wipro, biotechnology giant such as BioCon and Indian Institute of Science flourished under his administration.
SM Krishna’s reforms- The chief minister has created many such task forces to help him in the state’s governance. BMP officials say the fund-based accounting system has several benefits-like access to accurate, fast and timely information with an ability to administer the development works efficiently. “The reforms have brought clarity and professionalism within the organization. The successful implementation of the fund-based accounting system would not have been possible without the comprehensive partnership of the task force headed by Mr. Nandan Nilekani.” It included process mapping, designing of appropriate accounting policies and procedures, streamlining relationship with banks through memoranda of understanding, software development and deployment
Power reforms- ESCOMS
State government project to segregate electricity load in rural areas to agricultural and non-agricultural consumers, in order to supply 24 hours electricity to rural households and small industries, while monitoring quality supply to irrigation pump sets. The Government of Karnataka approved the implementation of the project in two phases, at the total costs of ` 2,123 crore with 40% equity and 60% to be borrowed as loan by the ESCOMs (GoK, 2016)
Digitization of land records (BHOOMI)
A flagship project of Karnataka State Government is a Land Records management system. The project was inaugurated in the year 2000. Under this project, all the manual RTCs which prevailed at the time of data entry were digitized and made available to the citizen through Kiosk Centers. All the ownership or any other changes in the RTCs are carried out through mutation as per KLR Act using the Land Records data- base. Bhoomi back offices have been set up at all taluks of the state. In each of these centers LR Kiosk & Application Kiosk have also been setup. India’s largest e-governance program has received worldwide acclaim. The online delivery of land titles under the Bhoomi program was chosen for a Commonwealth award in September 2002 in Glasgow, UK, from among Common- wealth’s 54 member states. Shri Krishna is the architect of the program. Bhoomi project has also impressed the United Nations Development Program which is keen to replicate it in other developing countries.
A ten-point reform program
Mr. Krishna, from the very beginning of his tenure, tried to create a public debate on fiscal policy; he launched a 10-point reform program in March 2000 to promote all round development of the state (Box 11.1). The reforms are aimed to create necessary conditions for the eradication of poverty through economic growth with equity (Khuntia, 2003)
Private Sector Development
The third mechanism is a tactical strategy adopted to develop private sec- tor in place of public sector. This component was instrumental in closing/merging the state-run PSUs and promotes deregulation of business. The decision was taken “that investment in Public Sector Enterprises should be restricted to strategic sectors or sectors of social concern and that Government need not continue to involve itself in production of consumer products and marketing enterprises, particularly if they are not generating profits (World Bank, 2001, Annex E, p.2)”. A reasoned argument was that priority of investment needs to be changed from public sector to social sector as per the policies of economic liberalization. As a part of private sector involvement strategy in public systems, the Krishna govt. constituted altogether ten Task Forces to invite suggestions of non-govt. entities in health, education, Information technology and biotechnology, infrastructure etc. BATF (Bangalore Area Task Force) was particularly important in initiating private sector-led solutions for Bangalore Municipal Corporation (World Bank, 2001). various were taken up to systematically reduce budgetary support for public enterprises by disinvesting and restructuring. Schemes like voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) were adopted to downscale the work- force (GOK Finance MTFP, 2002).
The new system (Bangalore Area Task Force) leaves no scope for corruption. It recognizes the complexity of various functions of local bodies (social, enterprise, commercial, fiduciary). The new accounting system lends itself to record the financial transactions under these categories accurately. With the implementation of the fund-based ac- counting system, BMP becomes the first civic agency in the country to adopt the state-of-the-art accounting and finanrefocus the BDA. Apart from distributing house sites and plots for civic amenities, the BDA is also building several state-of-the-art flyovers, knocking off illegal buildings, auctioning recovered properties and transforming its image of a dead organization. It is now one of the few government bodies that have won national fame. BDA is a statutory body which is a cash rich agency and perhaps the only of its kind to be listed on the National Stock Exchange.
It is to be noted that this mechanism is related to governance management still encapsulated under the economic reform scheme. The governance reform has been separately going on in sector- specific areas, such as health service, transport, panchayat raj (local governing bodies) etc. and these were few of the most important reforms in Karnataka. Governance reform has been initiated based on two strategic decisions. The first one is to rationalize (or limit) the state’s role to deal only with the “most critical public goods and services” that private market is incapable of supplying effectively. Second one is to strengthen the role of the state by increasing its effectiveness, transparency and account- ability (World Bank, 2001, Annex D, p.1).
The main aim behind this mechanism was to strengthen the government bureaucracy for advancing fiscal reform and transform public services (limited to basic needs) to become more account- able. He promised to provide the people of Karnataka with a transparent, responsible, responsive and decentralized government. The political adherence to reform is evident with the introduction of new institutional mechanisms for managing infrastructure better. The government also declared that it was committed to offer good governance to the people of Karnataka. Hence, public dialogue was complemented by legislative action and administrative measures. The government tried to take people into confidence to make them accept the path of reform by creating a public debate and democratizing the in- formation regarding the fiscal position of the state.
Fiscal and Public Expenditure Reform
“Chief Minister S M Krishna, who held the Finance portfolio, presented the medium-term fiscal plan for the coming five years … rationalize and target subsides, enhance efficiency and accountability in public spending and stabilize debt, Krishna said”
Karnataka Economic Restructuring Loan 1 (KERL 1) by the World Bank was the first in its kind where the state got a one-tranche (one-time) operational assistance for the fiscal year of 2000 It was a conditional assistance based on the four specific mechanisms to restructure the entire economy. The assistance was divided in half loan (INR 3594.75 Cr./USD75 million) and half credit (INR 3594.75 Cr. /USD75 million) form. (1) The mechanisms focused on fiscal and public expenditure reforms, administrative reforms, private sector development, and poverty and human development monitoring (World Bank, 2002). The Second Karnataka Economic Restructuring Loan 2 (KERL 2) was also made in line with the KERL 1 to advance the same mechanisms for reform. KERL 2 assistance was also equally shared between loan (INR 2283 Cr. / USD 50 million) and credit (INR. 2283Cr. / USD 50 million) support from the Bank for the fiscal year of 2001 – 2002 (World Bank, 2003). World Bank-guided economic re- form interrupted the legacy of state’s politics-driven planning The Bank, already a party to the Union govt. for state level reform for long, has a theory behind the state level economic re- structuring. Below is the Bank’s model of fiscalised development in Karnataka which the state has been following since the beginning of 2000. Karnataka received the biggest venture capital funding in biotechnology among all Indian states, observes Entrepreneur of the year award winner Kiran Majumdar Shaw, who is also chairperson of the CII Biotech committee and the Karnataka Vision Group.
SM Krishna’s Government does not view development as something that should be confined to urban centers like Bangalore. Under his guidance some dead agencies have sprung to life. A few years ago, a former state Government report had recommended that the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) be closed following an internal suggestion by a top bureaucrat.
Decentralization of governance: Decentralization is also acknowledged in the World Development Re- port, 2000/2001 as a pro-poor solution to alleviate poverty fiscalised development model certainly uses the state’s decentralized orientation of governance to execute various sector-specific reforms. The decentralization component of the administration is used to suffice the purpose of political intervention as well as economic restructuring. This is an important move to set Taluk as a nodal point for development which recognizes the structure of decentralization as well as the viability of grassroots-based development politics. Decentralization is used as a political choice for development practices,i.e. equity (one of the two components of Karnataka Model of Development), the World Bank’s model has used decentralization as a tactical choice to expedite the reform process. The presence of decentralization component in the Karnataka development model convinces scholars to argue that Karnataka development model is derived from the “Mysore Model”. The foresightedness of the Mysore Modernity (led by Wodeyars and their Dewans) in early twentieth century paved the way for building many academic institutions to generate skilled human resources in science and engineering and that eventually helped in developing a temperament for scientific and technological innovation. Bengaluru’s emergence as an IT capital of India is a result of these historical proceedings (Kadekodi, Kanbur and Rao, 2008). The fundamental difference between these two models is while Mysore modernity was a state-led development, the modern Karnataka’s development model is a state-supported, private cap- ital-led development. This difference raises question on various governance reforms to know how the state is acting as a facilitator to advance private capital led development.
Poverty Reduction and Human Development Monitoring
The last mechanism is poverty reduction and human development monitoring. This is in-fact the mechanism to measure the impact of the performance done by the above mentioned three interlinked mechanisms. This mechanism helps in establishing Poverty and Human Development Monitoring System by institutionalizing the Human Development Report and enhancing the state’s statistical management capacity. The mechanism holds the theoretical relation of the three former mechanisms. In third mechanism, the tactical alliance with the private sector has been tried to fill the gap in financing (created through fiscal reform) and right-size as well as deunionize the workforce (administrative reform). The main assumption behind the private sector development is that private investment leads to high growth, leading to massive job creation and that ultimately reduce the burden of poverty and thus improve the social indicators. The fourth mechanism is envisaged to capture the success of the very theory propounded by the World Bank; high growth will reduce poverty and improve social indicators. The state govt. echoes the same to accelerate the theory.
Transparency: The govt. has tried to establish transparency by simplifying the filing system,computerization of accounting works, streamlining of tax and license systems, introducing single window system for investment stimulus (procedures) and setting-up of regulatory authority (regulations) within the government system with an aim to simplify the administrative works and limiting the corruption (KDR, 2007). Similarly, these procedures and regulations were backed by the legislative actions. The Second Karnataka Economic Re- structuring Loan report acknowledges the importance of legislative backing for reforms in India.
Accountability: Corruption is a persistent crisis in Karnataka’s governance management and that always affects the service delivery negatively. The reform period-initiated number of measures to curb corruption. Empowerment of Lokayukta, implementation of Citizens’ Charters, initiation of social audit in rural and urban local bodies, public hearing (water adalat) and on- line complain registry are some of the reform measures Karnataka has adopt- ed to make public service accountable (KDR, 2007).
The ‘Reformed’ Model of Development
The reform has changed the philosophy of the state polity, anatomy of the economic structure and orientation of the governance management. This reform is celebrated as Karnataka Model of Development which professes that technology-led (mostly Information and Biotechnology) growth combined with decentralized governance can address the challenge of achieving “growth tempered with equity” (Kadekodi, Kanbur and Rao, 2008, p. 17). This model is crafted as ‘growth with social justice’ by the state. It is acknowledged by the state leadership that growth alone cannot ensure equitable distribution of income and other resources (HPCCI, 2002, chapter – 34). Hence, the model mixed the assurance of equity with the prospect of growth to pronounce as a macro-economic statement. Karnataka has altogether made seven laws to fulfil the transparency crteria of reform. Electricity Reform Act, Anti-Power-Theft Act, Transparency in Public Procurement Act, Ceiling on Govt. Guarantees Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act and Industry.
All this and more would not have been possible but for the pro-active supportive role of the Government headed by the scholar-turned-statesman chief minister. Shri Krishna’s image as a tech- savvy chief minister only helped boost the already strong tech presence in his state. Even top industry titans from the world like Intel CEO Craig Barett and GE Chairman Jack Welch, who were in Bangalore to open technology centres of their respective companies, have been wonder-struck by the industrial climate in the state. Most of the cutting-edge technology takes place in this part of the country. The Karnataka capital generates bigger software exports than any other Indian city.
To this day, SM Krishna is considered Karnataka’s ideal Chief Minister. His efforts to uplift the minority community, develop employment opportunities, enable low budget housing solutions through BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), IT and Bio-Tech industry zones, SEZs, State civil infra- structure, Agriculture, Power and the
list goes on. Despite several challenges posed to the chief minister, Karnataka continues to be the flagship of development in the fields of information technology (IT) and biotechnology (BT) in India. Some of the world’s biggest leaders have made Bangalore a must-stop on their India itinerary. From global leaders like China premier Zhu Rongji and Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair to industry captains like General Electric Chairman Jack Welch, Intel CEO Craig Barett and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In August 2000, the prime minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, was in Bangalore to hold discussions with Shri Krishna on bridging the digital divide. This was the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to India in 10 years. Shri Krishna invited big Japanese infotech companies to set up shop in his state. Some Bangalore companies like Wipro already have a presence in Japan.
His efforts to uplift the minority community, develop employment opportunities, enable low budget housing solutions through BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), IT and Bio-Tech industry zones, SEZs, State civil infrastructure, Agriculture, Power and the list goes on.
SM Krishna believes in all-round development of Karnataka. “Bangalore is the showcase of development as the capital but we have to create many more Bangalores throughout the state. I am the chief minister of the entire state and I want to have all around development,” says he. His resolve is to ensure that Karnataka has a GDP growth of 8-9 per cent, much higher than the national average. Boosting hopes is the Planning Commission’s observation that Karnataka is poised to be a major performer during the next five years and its GRO is expected to grow at 10 per cent. Two years ago (2000) when the state hosted the Global Investors Meet in Bangalore, investments poured in. The meet attracted more than 250 projects with a total investment of Rs 27,000 crore. over time, Karnataka has attracted nearly Rs 50,000 crore in investments which is a major achievement. The Global Investors Meet and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit held in Bangalore drew some of India’s top industry captains and these spurred investments flowing into Karnataka.
Karnataka’s CEO as he likes to call himself, has been accessible to public and their grievances over emails;more than 300 e-mails every day. A special management information system in the chief minister’s office, directly under the charge of an IAS officer, ensures that all the mails find responses from the chief minister. Clearly, Shri Krishna likes to keep in touch with the common man and there are no restrictions in reach- ing him.
In an Interview- Mark Robinson, Author- The politics of Successful Governance Reforms
Q: Why you did not consider taxing rural incomes and reductions to the subsidies on electric- ity?
A: They (especially the rural elector- ate which decides elections) would never forgive me and I would be finished. Ref: Pani N. Public Affairs Centre (2004) A Report Card on Bhoomi| Kiosks: A User Assessment of the Computerized Land Records System in Karnataka
His open mindedness, humble attitude and willing to adopt and try various schemes and methods for better governance and improved lifestyle has earmarked Bangalore and the state of Karnataka on the global map.To this extent, he is remembered as the most effective, efficient, intelligent, astute, statesman like administrator.
An able chief minister such as him- self had to withdraw from congress due to lack of like-mindedness and appreciation to leadership; he joins Bhartiya Janata Party to resume politics. However, there had been discerning interest after the financial issues and troubles and eventual death of his son-in-law Siddharth (Founder of Café coffee day). It is during these politically hard times for the State that the ministers of the hung government were finding resort from him, perhaps! Also, a prolonged personal solidarity from politics and issues concerning his son-in-law’s death might have troubled the aged Mr. SM Krishna. We as Kannadigas would like to ask the government to seek his advice and perhaps put the state governance in order.
Karnataka CM S.M. Krishna tops charts consistently- the conclusions suggest a marked continuity with Karnataka’s S.M. Krishna topping the charts consistently. An assessment of what does and doesn’t make the state leaders tick with voters
A suave administrator and a firm believer in teamwork, his modern outlook, openness and accessibility have helped put the sheen back on Karnataka’s image.Call it Krishna and the art of political consciousness. For he has a Zen like approach to his job – a calm and a detachment that are reassuring. He doesn’t sound embarrassed about admitting that he enjoys the good things of life.
(Writer: Shakila Makandar, Principle Correspondent Opinion Express)