Covid-19, Floods and BJP-JD(S) Bonhomie Hog the Limelight in Karnataka in 2020

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Bengaluru: From recording the country's first COVID-19 death to being battered by devastating floods and seeing the passage of the controversial anti-cow slaughter bill, Karnataka had an eventful 2020. Known for its business-friendly environs and housing some of the IT and manufacturing majors, a couple of instances of labour unrest worried officials over the state's business friendly image taking a hit.

Political bonhomie between former partners BJP and JD(S), delay in the much anticipated expansion of the B S Yediyurappa led cabinet and new leadership for the stateCongress dominated the political spectrum. Speculations were also rife about Yeddiyurappa being replaced.

It was a double whammy for the state in 2020 with COVID-19 and devastating floods in parts of the state taking their toll on the people. While a pandemic-induced lockdown came into effect in March, there was no dearth of protests -- whether it was against the controversial citizenship laws by the Centre or the contentious legislations enacted by the state earlier.

Protests against the CAA and NRC spilled over from 2019 and incidents like pro-Pakistan sloganeering and certain controversial graffiti emerging at a couple of places in the state created a huge uproar. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of a 76-year-old man from Kalaburagi in the state, the country's first casualty to coronavirus, in March, the focus entirely shifted to containing the contagion.

While a strict lockdown and containment strategy started yielding results, making Karnataka a better performer state, easing of restrictions and allowing public movement soon led to a deterioration in the situation. became one of the worst affected states with daily cases surging as high as over 10,000, even as related deaths started going north.

However, with a better testing strategy and stricter enforcement of containment measures,the government broughtthe situation under control and daily cases are around 1,000 now, with total infections being over nine lakh, including over 12,000 deaths. Nearly 14,000 cases are still active.

For the third consecutive year,several parts of Karnataka were battered by torrential rains and floods in August and later in September and mid-October. There were very high discharges from reservoirs in Maharashtra to downstream Karnataka, making it probably the first time the state faced floods in Krishna and Bhima basins in a single year.

The government estimated the damage from floods and landslides at Rs 15,410 crore. For Yeddiyurappa, the year began on a positive note as he inducted 10 new BJP legislators, who won on the party ticket after defecting from Congress and JD(S) into thecabinet, giving much needed stability to his government.

However, speculations about the BJP high command mulling over his replacement considering his age (77) is said to have put him in a spot of bother. His repeated requests to the high command for the much awaited cabinet expansion has not elicited a positive response, adding fuel to speculationsover leadership change, despite the state BJP vehemently denying it.

The opposition Congress saw a change of guard with the appointment of D K Shivakumar as state unit chief, who also faced a CBI raid in connection with a disproportionate assets case. BJP's one time ally JD(S) seems to have softened its stand towards the saffron party, reflected in its support to the government in passage of key bills and also the no- confidence motion against legislative council chairman K Pratapachandra Shetty, who is from the Congress.

The Council had witnessed high drama recently withBJP-JDS and Congress members hurling abuses and pushing each other and the Deputy Chairman being pulled down from the Chairman's seat over a row pertaining to the no-confidence motion. The government this year passed contentious laws like amendments to the land reform act, which liberalises farmland ownership, and the APMC amendment bill, which curtails the powers of local Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees and allows private individuals to start agricultural trading.

The BJP government also managed to push through the controversial anti-cow slaughter bill in the party-dominated Legislative Assembly, but is yet to clear the hurdle in the council, where it does not enjoya majority. JD(S) has made it clear it will not support the bill.

The year also saw the government cracking down on the drug menace, with seizure of narcotic substances and arrest of some actors and people linked to the film industry. At a time when the country is hoping to attract investments from corporate giants looking to shift out of China due to changing global scenarios,labour unrest at plants of Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Wistron Corp. has the government worried about its investor-friendly image taking a hit.

On the space front, city headquartered ISRO's activities were also affected by COVID, with the agency forced to limit rocket launches this year to just three, while ambitious future programmes like its first human space flight mission Gaganyaan likely to be delayed by one year to 2022. The Chandrayaan-3 (moon mission) scheduleis yet to be fixed.

The space sector was also opened for private players for their participation in the entire range of space activities, including planetary exploration missions.