All eyes are on Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa as he is gearing up to expand his cabinet of ministers. Yediyurappa has a difficult task ahead of him as he cannot afford unequal representation in terms of region and caste, while he chooses ministers for his new cabinet.
Party insiders say that Yediyurappa may take at least 10 days or another two weeks to make a decision.
At this point, Yediyurappa’s biggest concern, BJP sources say, is the induction of the rebel leaders from Belagavi. Although the Chief Minister promised to induct all the rebels, who won in the bye-elections, into the cabinet, sources say that there has been dissent within the party over “giving preference” to Belagavi district over other strongholds of the BJP.
The Belagavi question
All three rebels from Belagavi district have won the bye-polls, and this has left several leaders questioning Yediyurappa on whether it would be fair to have a total of five ministers from the region.
Currently, Yediyurappa’s cabinet has two ministers from Belagavi region including Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Transport Laxman Sangappa Savadi (who lost the election from Athani) and Shashikala Jolle, the Minister for Minister for Women and Child Welfare.
“Umesh Katti, who is also from Belagavi district, is also vying for a berth. Yediyurappa has to decide whether he can drop Laxman Savadi and then give the berths to the rebels because the caste angle is also important,” a source said.
Demands from Dakshina Kannada
BJP sources say that MLAs from Dakshina Kannada, a region considered to be the BJP’s fortress, fear that they would be sidelined. The BJP has won six out of seven assembly segments here and does not have a single cabinet minister from this region.
The party’s Vedavyas Kamath (Mangaluru South), Dr Bharat Shetty (Mangaluru North), Umanath Kotian (Moodabidri), Rajesh Naik (Bantwal), Sanjeeva Mattandur (Puttur) and Angara (Sullia) are aspiring to be ministers.
However, Angara from Sullia has the largest backing in the region and over 150 BJP members had resigned from their post as members in August this year, when the party did not induct him into the cabinet.
Speaking to the media on Monday, BJP state President, who is also the MP from Dakshina Kannada, Nalin Kumar Kateel said that equal representation would be given to leaders from all districts.
“Ultimately it is Chief Minister Yediyurappa’s decision but we will make sure that equal representation is given to leaders from all districts,” Nalin Kumar Katell said.
Currently, there are 17 ministers in Yediyurappa’s cabinet, leaving 16 posts vacant. BJP sources say that the high command has asked Yediyurappa to keep the expansion to a maximum of 13 new ministers. This has left Yediyurappa in a fix as he had on December 9, announced that all 11 rebels, who won the bye-polls, would get ministerial berths.
“Although he made that announcement, now there are caste and geographical constraints and Yediyurappa has to pacify those who will be left out. Some rebels may be left out too if push comes to shove. But everyone including the rebels have to be pacified. The high command will listen to Yediyurappa’s advice on this as he has proved that he is capable of winning elections,” the source said.