Will Karnataka follow in the footsteps of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy and appoint a total of five Deputy Chief Ministers? The issue is being discussed by the Karnataka BJP and the high command with several strategic political concerns in mind.
Karnataka already has three Deputy Chief Ministers and BJP sources say that the party is looking at appointing two more Deputy CMs in order to solidify the party’s reach in the state, and at the same time pacify the 17 Congress and JD(S) rebels, a few of whom are unhappy about not being considered for the post.
First reported by TOI, the report stated that the BJP is looking at appointing two more Deputy Chief Ministers from the Kuruba and Dalit communities in order to fix the caste equation in favour of the party in Karnataka.
The rebel trouble
However, BJP sources in the Karnataka unit told TNM that among the rebels, former Gokak legislator Ramesh Jarkiholi and former JD(S) state President and also the ex-MLA of Hunsur – AH Vishwanath, have been unhappy about the party nominating three Deputy Chief Ministers before the Supreme Court can decide on the fate of the 17 rebels, who resigned to bring down the Congress-JD(S) coalition government.
Party insiders say that the negotiators had promised to appoint Ramesh Jarkiholi as a Deputy Chief Minister if he resigned from the Congress. Ramesh Jarkiholi was dropped from his post as the Minister for Municipalities in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government during the reshuffle in 2018, and he had openly expressed his displeasure over the issue. Ramesh Jarkiholi had also stated that he would join the BJP soon. Insiders in the Congress say that he led the rebellion that brought down the government.
Belagavi leader Laxman Sangappa Savadi, who is not even an MLA, being appointed as the Deputy CM, has made Ramesh Jarkiholi unhappy, BJP sources said.
“Ramesh Jarkiholi is from the Valmiki Nayak community and so is B Sriramulu, who has traditionally been with the BJP. Since Ramesh’s brother Balachandra Jarkiholi was made the head of Karnataka Milk Federation, the party is now mulling over whether it would be too risky to just allot Ramesh a cabinet berth or if he has to be made the DCM. With AH Vishwanath, it is much easier as he can be offered a cabinet berth instead of making him the DCM,” the source added.
The caste equation
Another reason why the BJP is mulling over appointing two more Deputy CMs is to balance the caste equation. The BJP has come under severe criticism as a large chunk of the ministers inducted into the cabinet are from the Lingayat community.
In order to get rid of the tag that the BJP in Karnataka is a Lingayat party, the high command is purportedly mulling over inducting two additional DCMs. Party sources say that the high command is bent on snaring the Ahinda community's votes away from the Congress and thereby undermining the influence of former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the state.
“There are too may equations to solve. First would be to assure the rebels who want to join BJP that the promises will be met. The second, more important one, is to get rid of the perception that the Ahinda (Minorities, OBCs and Dalits) are traditional vote banks of the Congress. Appointing a DCM each from the Kuruba and Dalit community may be the first step,” the BJP source said.
BJP insiders say that Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa, who is from the Kuruba community, is a major contender for one of the two posts. In addition, JD(S) rebel AH Vishwanath and Congress rebel MLA from KR Puram Byrathi Basavaraj, who are also from this community, are contenders too. Molakalmuru MLA B Sriramulu, Ramesh Jarkiholi are also major aspirants.
“It is one thing to aspire and another to actually get appointed as DCM. What the central leadership showed by strategically choosing Laxman Savadi, Ashwathnarayana and Govind Karjol as the DCMs is that the prominence of the state leaders does not matter. What matters is that the party is confident of promoting leaders of its choice. Another message was that the high command controls all decisions. In the current scenario, there are constraints as the rebels have to be pacified too,” the source added.