Hectic lobbying for ministerial berths ahead of Karnataka cabinet expansion

  • Minister for urban development Byrati Basavarj, who crossed over from Congress to the BJP, expressed confidence that his fellow defectors would also be rewarded with cabinet berths.
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Published on Jan 11, 2021 10:12 PM IST
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By, Bengaluru

By Venkatesha Babu

With Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa saying he has received the consent of the party high command to induct seven new members into his cabinet, hectic lobbying has begun among nearly two-dozen aspirants. Differences also have cropped between newcomers into the party - those who crossed over from Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) to help BJP form the government - and old guard loyalists who feel the interlopers have bagged bulk of the cabinet berths.

In the 224-member Karnataka assembly, there are 2 vacancies with the BJP having 119 members plus the support of three independents. The Congress has 67 MLA's while the JDS has 33. Among those who crossed over from Congress and JDS who are waiting to be inducted include Raja Rajeshwari Nagar MLA Munirathna as well as Vidhana Parishat members MTB Nagaraju and R Shankar.

Munirathna told HT, "while campaigning for my by-poll victory, the CM himself said that I would be made a minister and I am confident that he will keep his word." AH Vishwanath, another defector who was defeated in the subsequent by-poll but was nominated to the upper house, sounded bitter and said, "Yediyurappa should remember the sacrifice of those who helped him become the chief minister. Our sacrifice should not be easily forgotten."

However, with the High Court passing strictures against Vishwanath becoming a minister following a PIL - he is a nominated member to the upper house - he is unlikely to be taken into the cabinet. Several of the BJP's old guards, including CM's political secretary M P Renukacharya, seven-time MLA Umesh Katti, five-time legislators S Angara, GH Thippareddy, Mudigere MLA MP Kumaraswamy, Karkala legislator Sunil Kumar, Basangouda Somangouda Patil representing Devara Hipparagi, Parana Munavalli, Hartal Halappa, Dattatreya Patil Revoor, Aravind Limbavali, are some of those who have publicly expressed their desire to be a part of the cabinet.

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Others like Hiriyur legislator Poornima Srinivas said that to increase women representation, she should be given an opportunity. Speaking to HT, Mudigere MLA MP Kumaraswamy said that he was fully confident that he would be allowed to serve the people as a minister. "I am sure that adequate representation to a backward class person like me would be provided," he said.

Meanwhile, minister for urban development Byrati Basavarj, who crossed over from Congress to help BJP form the government, expressed confidence that his fellow defectors would also be rewarded with cabinet berths. "I am sure that MTB Nagaraju and Muniratha will be made ministers for helping the party come to power. I am confident that promises made will be kept," he stated.

However, in the past, some like MP Renukacharya expressed unhappiness over preference given to defectors against long-time loyalists. Last month, as talks of cabinet expansion swirled, Renukacharya had said, "If we hand out all ministries to those who have come in now, should the old-timers who have helped build the party twirl their thumbs?"

Renukarcharya on Monday reiterated that he was an aspirant for a ministerial berth "but ultimately we will go by the decision of Yediyurappa who is like a father figure to us," he said.

While there was no clarity on whether the cabinet would merely be expanded or there is a reshuffle in the offing, some of the ministers expressed confidence that they would not be dropped. Independent MLA H Nagesh, excise minister facing allegations of corruption relating to transfers in his department, said, "I am confident that I will not be dropped from the cabinet."

CM Yediyurappa on Sunday night had said that the cabinet expansion and the oath-taking ceremony would take place on Wednesday (January 13) afternoon. Today, while speaking at a party convention, he said that it may take place on January 13 or 14. Sources in the BJP said that since January 13 is a new moon day (Amavasya - considered inauspicious), the event might be pushed by a day or two.

Political analyst Manjunath said that jockeying for cabinet berths was normal but also warned that there might be a spike in dissidence after the expansion. "There are too many aspirants and too little berths. So dissidence will inevitably come to fore. It remains to be seen how the CM decides to handle that," he said.

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