Rama Krishna Sangem
We are seeing an unprecedented fight for CM post between two senior Congress leaders in Karnataka. Even after the public gave a resounding victory for the party after a gap of 34 years, returning a party with full majority since 1989-, 135 out of 224 MLAs – its high command is unable to decide who the next CM is..
People all over the country, even abroad are wondering why even two senior leaders – Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar who worked so closely in elections, have turned bitter rivals? Why they are not seeing eye to eye and talking directly? This is not t he case of Karnataka alone.
Same fight is going on now in Rajasthan – between CM Ashok Gehlot and aspirant Sachin Pilot. The same thing happened in Maharasthra, Madhya Pradesh recently. It’s not the case of Congress or opposition politics, even BJP too had to accommodate Hemanta Biswa Sharma by replacing Sarbananda Sonawal as Assam CM.
What makes a CM post so special in our country?
The reason is simple. A Chief Minister is all the powerful in our federal structure of Indian politics. Though our Constitution says the CM is head of the council of ministers at the state level, it is literally and virtually the. will of CM prevails all the way. Whatever the CM thinks or wants will happen, no matter the feelings of other ministers. or MLAs. Taking or dropping of ministers is is sole prerogative.
Over the years after our Independence, regional leaders as CMs have begun asserting their power and grip over their parties at the state level. Once a leader become a CM, there will be no challenge to his supremacy. Even No 2 ministers in the Cabinet too will have to follow the CM’s diktat. That’s was why Congress at one stage started weakening its own CMs by encouraging dissidents.
In fact, all the Cabinet decisions are nothing but will and wishes of the CM. All officials including Chief Secretary, DGP and senior IAS officers, collectors, SPs listen to only the CM. No one else.
This applies to both Congress and old regional parties like DMK, AIADMK, TDP,, SP, BSP and TMC. Even BJP and new parties like BJD and Shiv Sena too adopted this culture.
There maybe high commands in national parties like Congress, BJP and the Left, but the CM is all the powerful, unless that person is a puppet of these high commands. Except in some cases, most of those who became CMs are very powerful, seasoned and wily politicians.
It is the case of survival of the fittest in politics. Only the fittest will become the CM. Others will have to obey him or leave. I don’t want to name anyone here, but the main focus of our CMs is to remove Nos 2s from their path. A CM can tolerate anyone, but not the No 2, in India.
Over the period, CMO (Chief Minister’s Office) have become very powerful, just like our PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). These CMOs are filled with officers loyal to the CM. Each CMO will have 5-6 senior officers, and each of them handle 5- 10 subjects 9 departments). They process all the files in consultation with the CM.
Other officials, including Chief Secretary, senior IAS officials normally follow the instructions of those in the CMO, by knowing the mind of CM. Ministers cannot take any decision, if it is not liked by CMO or CM. That is the reason, most ministers in our states are a frustrated lot. But, they cannot express it openly.
A CM can take decisions which directly influence people – right from transfers to award of contracts to allotment of funds to each department or scheme. Ministers only make statements related to their portfolios, but the real power rests with the CM., because, he controls everything through CMO.
That’s the reason why DKS in Karnataka is accepting even a plum portfolio offered to him – finance, or home or irrigation or commercial taxes, where one can make money (or shall I say to serve people? If it is to serve people, why don’t our senior ministers ask for education or tribal welfare portfolios?).
These portfolios are useless, unless the minister has the baking of CM. These days, home ministers in states are paper tigers, as law and order is kept with CMs only.
So, in our present system in states, a home minister can’t even transfer an SP or DSP, leave alone the commissioners of police. At the best, they may recommend transfer of constables or SIs, that too with the consent of CMO. Same is t he case with other so called lucrative portfolios .
That’s why DKS knows it is better to stay out of the Cabinet, when he cannot have his way as a minister. Whatever the good work done by a minister automatically goes the CM and his government. If minister gets god name, there is no guarantee that the CM will encourage him or her.
See the example of Kerala former health minister Shailaja Teacher who won global appreciation for her good work during Covid pandemic. For no reason, she was removed from the post, even after CPM won the elections.
In many states, MLAs are real power centers, and even MPs an union ministers will have to depend on them for small favours like allotment of a land or starting a business or for a medical treatment help from the CM Relief Fund.
CM post in India is as powerful as President of the United States. That’s why every senior politician dreams of becoming the CM one day. No wonder, why Sidda and DKS are fighting like anything for such a powerful post, their lifetime ambition, in Karnataka!