No roads in our villages, but Bengaluru gets elevated roads: HK Patil Congress leader

Senior Congress leader HK Patil (64), who represents Gadag in the Assembly, was the first to complain about lower allocation for north Karnataka in the JD(S)-Congress coalition regime’s first budget. In the light of demands for a separate statehood, Patil discusses why his people are disappointed, and its political implications in a chat with ET. Edited excerpts:

Why is North Karnataka unhappy?

The recent budget has new allocations worth Rs 39,000 crore over and above the allocations made in the Budget presented by our government before the elections. The people of my region have this grouse that these new allocations have not been properly distributed. That is what I said in my letter to the CM as well.

Do they seriously want a separate state?

No. They always favoured one state. However, after Karnataka’s unification, those who live in Mumbai-Karnataka region felt left behind in development on seeing the progress in nearby places such as Kolhapur, Sangli, Miraj, and Satara across the border. Where governments failed, NGOs and private and cooperative institutions filled in, but that still left us far behind in areas such as good roads or government offices.

When did the resentment start building up?

Right from 1965. In the 1980s, it reached its peak because the government would not consider meritorious people from north Karnataka for posts of vice chancellor. There was no representation for people from our region either in the secretariat or in the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC). During SM Krishna’s term, things got a little better when 7-8 new universities were set up, and a high court circuit bench was sanctioned.

And people are still displeased?

Because investors are not coming, economic activities are not picking up, and jobs are not being added. Even irrigation is not exploited to its potential. Look at Bengaluru. The government is ready to spend thousands of crores to build elevated roads just because it will get late for some people to catch their flights. In our rural areas, there are not even proper roads. In south Karnataka, you have government schools everywhere, but not in north Karnataka, where private educational institutions are becoming weak because of an unhelpful grant-in-aid policy. There is a deep sense of hurt because Bengaluru is far ahead in terms of political importance, and infrastructure. People in north Karnataka are aspiring for the same attention and importance as Bengaluru.

What are the priority areas?

There are many. For example, we want the government to first recognise our culture starting from our food culture, and protect it. The staple food in north Karnataka is jowar roti. But people get free rice.

Why the sudden outburst of emotions?

The missteps in the Budget, coupled with some unintentional utterances by the CM. The BJP tried to exploit the CM’s remarks politically, and that is why the issue became big.

The CM has offered to do his best for your region…

The government has made the right noises and the CM has put a step forward. He must pursue his plans in all seriousness.

Political analysts say the Congress has more to lose…

The CM has taken initiatives, and he must follow them up. If the coalition government does not respond properly, it will obviously hurt the Congress in north Karnataka.


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