Yediyurappa’s cabinet expansion talks delayed as Amit Shah busy with Kashmir
The central government’s decision to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution has had an unexpected impact on efforts to constitute the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s council of ministers in Karnataka.
Chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who won the trust vote in the state Assembly last week, is visiting New Delhi to discuss the Cabinet expansion in the state. He was hoping to meet Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also the party president, on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss the expansion. He is set to return to the state on Thursday.
This schedule was made last week as he was unaware that Home Minister Amit Shah would move the resolution calling for the scrapping of Article 370, a senior BJP leader confirmed.
However, Yediyurappa’s haste has found little resonance with the central leadership.
The chief minister’s decision to meet the party leadership comes at a time when parts of the state are witnessing high rainfall, leading to floods in some of the northern districts of the state, and he is the only minister, facing criticism from the Congress and JD(S) for running a “one-man government”.
Speaking to HT, two senior leaders of the party from the state said that officially Yediyurappa was travelling to New Delhi to meet Union ministers and hold talks over departmental allocations.
“However, his agenda is to discuss the cabinet expansion, which is unlikely to happen at this moment,” the leader, who is a senior MLA, said on the condition of anonymity.
The fate of the rebel MLAs, whose resignations precipitated the fall of the coalition government, is uncertain, though some of them have held regular meetings at Yediyurappa’s house here, apparently to congratulate him on forming the government.
“There is intense pressure on Yediyurappa from the rebels to include at least 10 of them in the state Cabinet,” a second BJP leader said. “It is for this reason that Yediyurappa is desperate to hold talks with the central leadership,” the leader said.
However, as the rebels were disqualified by former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar and the matter is before the Supreme Court, the party will keep the ministerial berths that will be filled by the rebels vacant and the Cabinet will be expanded in two phases, the second leader said.
Additionally, many ministerial berth aspirants from within his party, too, have been lobbying with Yediyurappa to include them in the Cabinet. With a maximum limit of 34 ministerial berths, including the chief minister, Yediyurappa will have to strike a fine balance to include senior leaders for the remaining 23 berths.
Among the seniors are former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, who is likely to be given a senior post in the Cabinet, considering the fact that the party chose to make Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri the Speaker. He will also not be made the state president of the party, the first BJP leader said, as both he and Yediyurappa are Lingayats and that would not be good optics.
“As far as I know, Yediyurappa took oath in a hurry on July 26, even though the central leadership was willing to wait a while till there was more clarity about the rebels,” the first leader said. “Even now, the central leadership has other more pressing matters and can they be faulted for not making this a priority?”
A senior official in the chief minister’s office said that Yediyurappa’s itinerary was kept blank for Thursday in case he was required to spend more time in the national capital.