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Will further lift IT exports, talk to large companies to invest in Karnataka: Siddaramaiah

Will further lift IT exports, talk to large companies to invest in Karnataka: Siddaramaiah

Congress leader Siddaramaiah took over as the 28th chief minister of Karnataka today in a ceremony attended by over 30,000 people. The 64-year-old spoke to K.R. Balasubramanyam about his plans for the state.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah will be sworn in as Karnataka CM today Congress leader Siddaramaiah will be sworn in as Karnataka CM today
Congress leader Siddaramaiah took over as the 28th chief minister of Karnataka at a ceremony attended by over 30,000 people, held at Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore this forenoon. The Congress has wrested power from the BJP in the May 5 election, winning 121 seats in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly. The 64-year-old Siddaramaiah took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with Business Today's K.R. Balasubramanyam.

Q. What are your immediate priorities as chief minister?
A. I first need to tone up the administration. We must show the difference to the people, because governance has completely collapsed. Secondly, I need to kick-start development works, which have come to a standstill.

Q. Any plans of reforms on the finance side?
A. In fact, we did tax reforms long ago. I was the one who introduced VAT (value-added tax) in Karnataka as finance minister. I left behind robust finances. But the BJP regime destroyed it. Now I have to restore financial discipline. The debt burden has gone up, because resources have not been mobilised properly. I need to pay more attention over there.

Q. Where does Karnataka stand as an investor destination?
A. Karnataka has not got even those investments it should have got in the normal course. This is because of instability and corruption in the BJP government. The government did not treat investors properly, forcing them to look elsewhere for opportunities. Now I am going to talk to large companies and persuade them to invest here. I will also talk to the automobile industry to get it to invest in Karnataka.

Q. What will be your government's approach to mining issues?
A. The subject of mining is before the Supreme Court. Once it is settled there, the government will come up with a comprehensive policy on how best we can use our mineral resources and add value. We will not allow mining for export to other countries, but will supply the ore available first for steel industries within the state, and then for industries outside the state. We will allow mining of mineral resources only in a phased manner.

Q. Many state projects are not moving quickly, or are pending with the Centre...
A. I am aware of it. I am going to discuss it with the Union ministers concerned and the Prime Minister.

Q. What is your approach to the IT sector going to be?
A. Traditionally Karnataka enjoyed the upper hand in the export of information technology services. However, the state lost a little of its momentum after the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra also picked up in the sector. I will now step up our efforts here again, talk to all those concerned, and ensure Karnataka's share goes up.

Q. The Congress election manifesto promises free power to the farm sector, free laptops to students, and so on. Where will you find resources for these?
A. In fact, we drafted the election manifesto only after assessing the availability of resources in the government. In June or July, I will present the Budget. We will begin the process of implementation of the promises made in the manifesto from the first Budget itself. We will begin with some in the first year, and stagger the rest over the reminder of the term. We will implement all our promises in four years.

Q. Karnataka's power deficit is the largest in the South. How will you address this?
A. Our power situation is precarious, because the previous regime did not pay attention to power generation. We will pay attention and encourage private investment in the generation sector. We will also fix the problems in transmission and distribution, and use available electricity efficiently. I will also discuss the issue of coal shortage with the Central government.

Q. Some ministers in the previous BJP regime were corrupt. How will you deal with those cases?
A. We will speed up investigation into corruption cases and take tough action against those found guilty. We will implement the Lok Ayukta's recommendations in these cases. My goal is also to strengthen the Lokayukta.