Karnataka ministers spar over Covid handling

Bengaluru: Two senior BJP ministers have been sparring for quite some time over measures to contain the second wave of Covid-19 even as the Coronavirus has started spreading rapidly, especially in Bengaluru.

It is this internal strife that is behind a series of flip-flops that have dented the credibility of the BS Yediyurappa government. While Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar wants strict measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, Deputy Chief Minister Dr CN Ashwathnarayan has been forcing the CM to open up more sectors in view of the economic situation of the state. Ashwathanarayan has been in the forefront of leading various delegations from several industries urging the CM to lift restrictions arguing that people will be far more affected by loss of livelihood, starvation and other pressing issues if lockdown is not relaxed.

The DyCM holds major portfolios like Higher Education, Information Technology and Biotechnology, Science and Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Livelihood.

The internal strife has intensified of late. However, since the onset of the pandemic, the government has been making frequent U-turns on their policy announcements, particularly regarding the COVID-19 related restrictions. The cause for these sudden U-turns is often a tug of war between the two senior ministers, according to sources.

Some of the major U-turns were:

In March 2020, the government announced that IT offices will be allowed to stay open even as other sectors would be under strict lockdown. It also announced that two-wheelers would be allowed to ply. Hours later, both the orders were reversed. Later, the CM announced the closure of the highly subsidised Indira Canteens in Bengaluru, but minutes later announced that they will not only be open but distribute free food to the needy.

In May, the government refused to send back migrant labourers to their home states by cancelling the Shramik trains. A day later the decision was changed.

In December 2020, night curfew was announced but withdrawn just hours later. In February 2021, Karnataka Minister Umesh Katti had announced to the media that those who own motorcycles, refrigerators or land will not be eligible for BPL ration cards. This too was retracted just over 24 hours later.

And more recently, in the wake of increasing cases, the government had restricted cinema theatres to only 50% capacity of seating but after pressure from the film industry, allowed full capacity till April 7. It had also announced that gyms and swimming pools be closed but that too was modified later.

The hapless CM is often cornered within his own government and party.

Meanwhile, Karnataka reported 6570 new Covid cases and 36 Covid-related deaths. Of the new cases, Bengaluru had the maximum number with 4422 people testing positive and 22 deaths.

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