The Congress party may fritter away the political edge gained after its win in the Karnataka state election . Here are some tips for the state's new ruling party to maintain its advantage in the runup to the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
1. The Congress should appoint someone with a clean image and record for good work as chief minister of Karnataka, and not go by his fund-raising abilities for the party. A political party going to the polls is obviously under pressure for funds, and the Congress should not see Karnataka as an avenue to raise funds for the Lok Sabha and coming assembly elections in five states.
2. One source of corruption and mis-governance is transfer of bureaucrats. If the party does not succumb to the temptation of irrational transfers and is able to appoint men of integrity to key positions, its image will receive a big boost. The first litmus test: Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath is retiring in June and the Congress regime will do well to appoint somebody based on his record.
3. The Congress should give its chief minister full freedom to run the state, and intervene only necessary. Past chief ministers have suffered because they were not being able to resist pressure from New Delhi.
4. The new Congress regime should remember the BJP lost power in Karnataka in spite of announcing a plethora of populist schemes and creating a separate budget for agriculture. The writing on the wall is clear: the party must strengthen existing schemes and not succumb to the temptation of launching unnecessary new schemes. It must not abandon the good work done in sectors like food and public distribution, health and urban infrastructure, but strengthen them instead.
5. People voted the Congress in because they wanted to vote the BJP out. The Congress party must benefit from the lessons handed out to the BJP, and not repeat the same mistakes.
6. The outgoing BJP administration has done some good work in the power sector, especially in planning new thermal power projects. These are all likely to be commissioned by 2017. If the Congress sticks to some of its populist poll promises like free power supply to farmers, it will wreck Karnataka's sound finances.
7. The new ruling party has enough scope for taxation reforms. There is room to reduce VAT and stamp duty rates in Karnataka which has some of the country's highest tax rates.