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After 2 yrs, BJP removes 3 DY CM posts

The system was introduced in the BS Yediyurappa government, where three deputy chief ministers from prominent communities in the state were appointed, and designation was perceived to check-mate Yediyurappa’s clout.
PUBLISHED ON AUG 05, 2021 01:13 AM IST
Karnataka Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot and chief minister Basavaraj Bommai with newly inducted ministers during swearing-in ceremony to form the Cabinet at Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru on Wednesday. (PTI)

Bengaluru: After two years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to do away with the three deputy chief minister formula in Karnataka that was aimed to showcase representation of different castes in higher echelons of the government.

The system was introduced in the BS Yediyurappa government, where three deputy chief ministers from prominent communities in the state were appointed, and designation was perceived to check-mate Yediyurappa’s clout. While administratively these posts didn’t hold any additional power other than the portfolios allocated to them, the system was aimed at creating new leaders in these communities.

In the previous government, the three deputy chief ministers belonged to Lingayat, Vokkaliga, and Dalit communities. These communities [Lingayats (16%), Vokkaligas (14%), SC/ST (9%] constitute approximately 39% of the population. The choices indicated the caste combinations that the BJP is trying to project. Govid Karjol hails from a Scheduled Caste community, while Ashwath Narayan is a Vokkaliga and Laxman Savadi a Lingayat. It remains unclear if they will retain their old portfolios in the new cabinet.

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While BJP has the support of the Lingayat community, it is yet to gain the trust of the Vokkaliga and Dalit voters in the state. Appointing deputy chief ministers was part of the BJP’s plans to create a second layer of leadership, who can become the face of these communities within the BJP.

On Wednesday, while talking to reporters before the swearing-in of the new cabinet members, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said that the party’s central leadership has decided not to continue with the posts of deputy chief ministers. “In our previous government, led by BS Yediyurappa, there were three deputy chief ministers. The high command has now told us that there will not be any deputy chief ministers in this government,” he said.

Reacting to this development, former deputy chief minister Ashwath Narayana said, “I’m totally unaware (of how the high command came up with the decision). Whatever decision was taken by the party and the honorable chief minister, it is their decision whether to have it or not. So whatever they decide, it is acceptable to all of us.”

The chief minister did not provide a reason for the removal, however, BJP leaders with whom HT spoke with pointed out three possible reasons for the change. First, the three DCM experiment has failed to produce leaders from the community; second, there was intense lobbying for the position ahead of the cabinet expansion; and third, they didn’t want any more alternative powerhouses to emerge in the party.

According to a senior BJP office bearer, the three communities which were given the posts of deputy chief ministers did not rally behind their candidates and was one of the reasons for the removal of these posts. “The central command feels that the three deputy chief minister’s, despite being in power for two years, didn’t find support within their respective communities. If you look at it, there was no demand from these communities to elevate any of the DCMs to the post of chief minister. It was a clear sign,” said the officer.

Another BJP MLA said that the purpose of appointing three deputy chief ministers was an attempt to dilute Yediyurappa’s power and since he is now out of power, there is no requirement for these posts. “Two years ago, Yediyurappa was a powerhouse. So, creating these second layers of leadership was an attempt to create alternate powerhouses,” the leader said.

He added that since Yediyurappa no longer holds power, the party doesn’t want any more new regional political powerhouses to emerge. “They want a government that runs on the instructions of the central high command. Now they have it, they want to ensure it stays that way,” said an MLA, who is associated with the Yediyurappa camp.

Despite these reasons listed out by party leaders, one of the main reasons for removing these posts was intense lobbying. “From the day the new chief minister was announced, there was intense lobbying from both camps within the BJP. Since both parties could not reach any consensus, the party decided to drop the post altogether,” said a party official.

Political experts said that all these factors could have resulted in the decision to remove the DCM posts. “I won’t look at these factors in isolation. The important point here is that the new chief minister is a candidate handpicked by the central high command and also approved by the former chief minister. So, the leadership wants to discontinue the old ways and empower the current CM,” said political analyst Sandeep Shastry.

According to him, it is important for the BJP to ensure no alternate powerhouse is created in the state. “They don’t want to checkmate the new CM as they did with Yediyurappa. Another reason is that they don’t want any influence from the former chief minister by having someone close to Bommai, like in the position of the deputy chief minister,” he added.

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