A Cabinet expansion to include representatives of all dissenting factions was touted as the only solution to the problems of chief minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress in Karnataka.
But now that the much awaited and repeatedly postponed expansion has finally happened, both the party and its principal flag bearer appear weaker than ever.
By replacing KG George with Congress president G Parameshwara as the home minister, Siddaramaiah has sacrificed a loyalist to accommodate a man who has sought to consistently undermine his leadership since he took charge in May 2013.
George, who was offered the much inferior position of Bengaluru development minister, was expectedly beside himself with rage and stalled the entire process for a day.
Although the decision to hoist Parameshwara into the second most important chair in the government was taken on Thursday itself, Siddaramaiah was in no position to make the announcement officially until late Friday evening. In the intervening 24 hours, several senior leaders of the party were trying to convince George to back down.
Party insiders said that sidelining George, who has stood by him like a rock for the last 30 months, will cost Siddaramaiah dearly in the coming months. Other senior Congress leaders such as Kagodu Thimappa and KB Koliwad too are said to be unhappy over not being included in the Cabinet.
“It has given further wind to talk that Siddaramaiah doesn’t care for his loyalists in the party and that the only people he truly cares about are the friends he carried into the Congress when he quit the JDS,” said a senior Congress MLA, whose name was not on the shortlist.
One of the few positives to come out of the rejig, though, is that Siddaramaiah could prevent Parameshwara from becoming deputy CM.
Parameshwara’s future looks uncertain now as he will soon have to relinquish his post as PCC president, a designation which allowed him access to the party leadership in Delhi and gave him control over the party in Karnataka.
It is well known that Parameshwara doesn’t enjoy mass support like Siddaramaiah. Indeed, the reason the party has allowed Siddaramaiah to call the shots so far, despite opposition from leaders such as SM Krishna and Mallikarjun Kharge, is because he is a veteran of many successful election campaigns.