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Karnataka Congress MLAs press for cabinet posts, Lingayat leader seeks deputy CM chair

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy meets Lingayat leader MB Patil amid protests outside the Congress office in Bengaluru

india Updated: Jun 08, 2018 20:33 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Congress,Karnataka,Karnataka cabinet
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy (R) meets Congress leader MB Patil at his residence in Bengaluru on Friday.(HT Photo)

Disgruntled Congress legislators angered at being overlooked for ministerial posts in the Cabinet expansion of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka are threatening to destabilise the party if they are not accommodated in the six vacant berths soon.

At the forefront of the dissidence is former minister and leader of the separate Lingayat religion movement MB Patil. The member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Babaleshwar in the Vijayapura district on Friday said he would not settle for anything less than the deputy chief minister’s post.

Patil’s public criticism came in the backdrop of fevered parleys between him and senior state leaders, including chief minister and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, who visited his house on the day. Earlier, deputy chief minister and state Congress president G Parameshwara had also met Patil.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kumaraswamy said he met Patil as the leader of the coalition government and to ensure that it did not face any trouble. “I have no part to play in the internal decisions of the Congress, but I met Patil as the leader of the coalition government. It is now my duty to ensure that the feelings of these leaders are conveyed to the Congress so that they can address it,” he said.

Among those who have been angered by their exclusion in the Cabinet are former minister HK Patil, All India Congress Committee secretary Satish Jarkiholi, Veerashaiva Mahasabha president Shamanur Shivashankarappa.

Patil, a close aide of former chief minister Siddaramaiah, said on Friday that his pride had been hurt by his exclusion. “Kumaraswamy is the chief minister and leader of the coalition but he has got nothing to do with the internal decisions of the Congress,” Patil said. “I am not alone, there are 15-20 people with me, like Satish and Ramesh Jarkiholi. We are discussing how to strengthen the party, none of us has thought of quitting the party,” he said.

Patil said there was no question of quitting the party and that the disgruntled leaders, who have held two rounds of discussions, had never thought about it. “The Congress might have dumped me but I can’t dump the party. I cannot betray the party,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jarkiholi, whose brother Ramesh has been inducted into the Cabinet, confirmed to Hindustan Times that he would soon resign from his post in the All India Congress Committee “within few days.”

Protests were also held outside the Congress office in Bengaluru, with supporters of some of the leaders who were excluded pressing for their inclusion in the Cabinet. At present, there are six vacancies in the Congress’ share of ministries and no date has been finalized for the further expansion of the Cabinet.

One dissident Congress leader said the group is now thinking of going to Delhi to show their strength to the high command. “Maybe then they will realise that the Cabinet expansion was unjust,” the leader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

While forming the coalition government the Congress and JD(S) had agreed to share the 34 ministries in the ratio of 2:1, with the Congress getting 22 and the JD(S) the rest, including the chief minister’s post. Portfolios of the 25 ministers inducted into the state government on Wednesday have not yet been revealed.

JD(S) leader Basavaraj Horatti, addressing reporters in Hubballi on Friday, said the reason for his own exclusion from the Cabinet was because of his association with the movement demanding separate religion status for the Lingayat sect, a demand that was granted by the government of chief minister Siddaramaiah days before the state polls.

“The Lingayat agitation has become my biggest crime. We fought for justice but some seers portrayed it as an attempt to break the community and have demanded that I should not be made a minister,” Horatti said. The JD(S) leader had led the movement along with MB Patil.

Political analyst Harish Ramaswamy said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the current dissidence. “This is basically a strategy to lobby for the six vacant posts,” he said. “These leaders know that they will not be accommodated in the only other party that is available to them now, the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

Ramaswamy said if these leaders move to the BJP they will not enjoy the same clout as they do in the Congress. “Like senior leaders SM Krishna and V Srinivasa Prasad, they will not be given prominence once they move,” he said.

According to Ramaswamy, the message was clear, that those who have been sidelined had failed to deliver on the party’s expectations. “Take the Lingayat leaders, for example, they were unable to ensure the party’s win in the Mumbai-Karnataka region. This seems to be a signal that the high command has taken note of their lackluster performance,” he said.

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 18:31 IST