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Karnataka cabinet expanded as new challenges crop up

The formation of the BJP government in Karnataka with the help of rebels from rival parties has thrown up the challenge of power distribution

Eight former Congress and two Janata Dal-Secular(JD-S) legislators who quit their positions to switch over to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and got reelected on the BJP tickets were sworn in as cabinet ministers in Karnataka this morning. The expansion process was delayed despite the 5 December 2019 by-election results that were declared on 09 December itself.

But for Mahesh Kumatalli, all other ten former MLAs’ have been rewarded with ministerial berths for ensuring the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy led JDS-Congress coalition government and thereby enabling the saffron party to come back to power.

Mahesh Kumatalli, Athani MLA has been vocal enough in letting out his angry outbursts against Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa for letting him down in cabinet expansion. He also termed the CM’s action as betrayal for he was assured of a cabinet post when he had offered to resign along with 16 other MLAs’. He was not the only one to air his displeasure in public. MTB Nagaraj, a former minister in the alliance government and AH Vishwanath, former Karnataka Janata Dal-Secular party president had also gunned at the CM for not including them in today’s expansion.

However, the chief minister succeeded in placating both of them with an assurance that their candidature to the cabinet will be considered during the coming May-June when there will be around seven vacancies to the Legislative Council of Karnataka.

It may be recalled here that both of them lost the by-elections from Hoskote in Bengaluru Rural district and Hunsur in Mysuru district respectively.

The Supreme Court while upholding the speaker’s ruling of disqualifying all the 17 turncoats from the membership of the Assembly had permitted them to recontest. At the same time, it had ordered that all these 17 legislators can occupy ministerial positions only after getting elected to either of the two houses of the Karnataka legislature.

Hence BS Yediyurappa was realistic in his approach of opting out both, MTB Nagaraj and AH Vishwanath from today’s exercise. But why he avoided Mahesh Kumatalli’s inclusion is not known officially so far.

By and large, the demands of the former disqualified legislators have been fulfilled but the grouse of loyal and senior BJP leaders continue to loom large at. KS Eshwarappa and B Sriramulu, both current cabinet ministers stayed away from today’s swearing-in ceremony.

It was the same story with MTB Nagaraj, Umesh Katti, and CP Yogeshwar. Umesh Katti is a six times MLA from Belagavi district and was a strong contender for a ministerial berth.

Along with Katti, Arvind Limbavali and CP Yogeshwar were also tipped to be included in today’s expansion. Arvind Limbavali, Mahadevapura MLA in the city and CP Yogeshwar, former Channapatna MLA had played a pivotal role in operation Lotus to unseat the previous JDS-Congress government.

Ten BJP legislators held a meeting at the legislature home in the city a couple of days back to stake claim of considering them to the cabinet. BL Santosh, national BJP general secretary held a meeting with some of them and warned against airing their views in public.

But party MLAs continue to register their anger against the party high command for not considering them to the cabinet. In that way, BS Yediyurappa is stressed with multiple headaches simultaneously now.

There is already a scramble among the new cabinet ministers for plum portfolios while the old-timers within the party are making an all-out effort and putting all possible pressure tactics for forced entry to the cabinet.

It looks like the road ahead continues further to be a tight rope walk to the septuagenarian mass leader in the present adverse and complicated circumstances. How he handles and paves way for a smooth ride needs to be seen and watched?

Manohar Yadavatti

By Manohar Yadavatti

Senior journalist