Karnataka cabinet expansion is a delicate balancing act for Yediyurappa
The seven-month-old B S Yediyurappa (BSY) led Bharatiya Janata Party government will expand its cabinet on Thursday with the likely addition of 13 new ministers to the existing 17 ministers apart from the Chief Minister.
However, having promised to induct all the 17 Congress – JDS MLAs who toppled the coalition government led by H D Kumaraswamy, the chief minister finds himself caught in a pincer as his ‘loyalists’ too, are demanding berths.
Walking the tightrope, Yediyurappa is likely to induct three loyalists, Umesh Katti, C P Yogeshwar and Arvind Limbavalli apart from ten out of the 11‘defector’ MLAs-- who won the recent bypolls-- into the cabinet.
Mahesh Kumtahalli, the 11th ‘rebel’ who contested and won the bypolls from Athani constituency is unlikely to be inducted.
Yediyurappa told media in Kalburgi that cabinet expansion would take place as scheduled but a final call on the inductees will be taken by the party high command.
Karnataka can have a maximum of 34 ministers, which means that even if 13 new ministers are inducted on Thursday, three vacancies will still remain.
Two of the ‘defector’ MLAs who lost the bypolls, A H Vishwanath and M T B Nagraju, have been demanding to be included into the cabinet for their “sacrifices in ensuring a BJP government in the state”. The residence of Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Raghavendra was visited by several aspirants lobbying for cabinet berths on Wednesday. One of them Nagaraju said “I am fully confident that Yediyurappa will keep his word.”
On the other hand, the likely induction of senior Vokkaliga leader C P Yogeshwar, who is not a member of either house, seems to have created a lot of heartburn amongst the loyalists.
The statement of Deputy CM Ashwath Narayan supporting the induction of Yogeshwar did not go down well with some sections of the party as was demonstrated by BSY’s political secretary M P Renukacharya-- himself a ministerial aspirant-- saying “if somebody really loves Yogeshwar that much, let them resign and offer their position to him”.
A H Vishwanath, the former JDS state President, who quit the party and lost the bypolls after joining the BJP, suggested Yogeshwar had not contributed to the BJP’s return to power.
Noted political analyst Prof. Harish Ramaswamy said that rumblings in the BJP are likely to only increase after the cabinet expansion.
“The old loyalists are miffed at being excluded and understandably so. Which is the reason why Yediyurappa is deflecting blame by claiming that the party high command has chosen the inductees. That is why they also will retain a few vacancies in the cabinet to be dangled as carrots in case things go out of hand,” he said.