Kumaraswamy meets Congress leaders in Delhi, spar over portfolio sharing in Karnataka continues
Days after the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government proved its numbers on the floor of the House, the finance and Bengaluru development portfolios have emerged as a bone of contention with both parties laying claim to the crucial departments.
Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy held discussions with Congress leaders on cabinet expansion in Delhi on Monday. His deputy G Parameshwara, former CM Siddaramaiah, and former minister DK Shivakumar held one round of talks with party president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday.
With Gandhi travelling abroad with his mother Sonia for her medical check-up, senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and KC Venugopal (general secretary in-charge of Karnataka), have been tasked with handling the negotiations in the meantime.
A senior JD(S) leader, who was part of the negotiations in Delhi, said the party had asked for the finance ministry, water resources ministry and the public works department. “So far, no deal has been reached,” the JD(S) leader said, requesting anonymity. Kumaraswamy’s brother Revanna is said to be interested in handling the PWD portfolio, which he previously held.
A Congress leader in Delhi said on the condition of anonymity that his party is willing to give the PWD ministry but would like to keep the finance portfolio.
Another JD(S) leader said the Congress is demanding all key portfolios — finance, home, irrigation, excise, power, industry and Bengaluru development.
“There should be reasonable give and take. You cannot keep all portfolios just because you have given us the post of chief minister,” the leader said.
“We are likely to resolve the portfolio issue within a day or two,” Venugopal said after the meeting. Later in the day, Kumaraswamy also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I have discussed a lot of issues with the PM. He also extended me many suggestions. He advised me given his political experience. I am grateful to him,” the CM said.
Kumaraswamy also visited Raj Ghat and offered floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi.
The fight over the finance portfolio is also a fight over the credit that is likely to accrue to the parties over the promised waiver of Rs 53,000 crore worth of farm loans, announced by Kumaraswamy, one of the JD(S) leaders cited above said.
One senior state Congress leader said: “In a coalition, the party that gets the deputy chief minister’s post also gets the finance portfolio. Having got the chief minister’s post, the JD(S) must not now also insist on the finance ministry.”
For the Congress, though, there is also the additional burden of ensuring that different regions of the state find ample representation in the government.
“Ours is the only party that exists across the state. As a result, we will have to not only work on the caste-based representation of the new Karnataka government, but also regional representation,” the Congress leader quoted above said.