Congress leaders from North Karnataka are irked, especially since they feel underrepresented in the cabinet. Pressure is mounting on the Congress-JD(S) coalition government to expand the cabinet and add seven more ministers. But Chief Minister Kumaraswamy is reluctant.
The reason – it’s an ‘inauspicious month’. Sources in the JD(S) say that Congress leaders want the Chief Minister to go ahead with the cabinet expansion ahead of the urban local body elections on August 29 in order to enable a “friendly fight”. While the allies have decided not to fight the polls together, they have told local leaders to make BJP their target.
“They (Congress) want to silence the pressure from North Karnataka and want to be seen as a party which gives importance to the problems of North Karnataka. But the Ashada month (according to the lunar calendar) has begun. It is considered inauspicious to take any major decisions during this period. Many people do not carry out major business transactions or make big investments during this month. That’s why there is a bit of hesitation on the Chief Minister’s behalf,” the JD(S) source added.
However, the Congress leaders, who had consulted with the Election Commission, has received a go-ahead that the cabinet expansion would not amount to violation of code of conduct.
“Congress wants the expansion to happen on August 13 preferably, ahead of the Independence Day celebrations. The coalition partners are in talks. But as of now, it looks like the expansion will not happen soon,” a Congress leader said.
Meanwhile, the two parties have reached a stalemate regarding the issue of seat sharing for the Lok Sabha elections even as the opposition BJP has begun its preparation with the state President BS Yeddyurappa on a North Karnataka tour already.
Leaders from both JD(S) and Congress say that the parties have not been able to agree on the seat sharing ratio and the Congress feels threatened of being obliterated from certain constituencies, if it has to offer its support to the JD(S).
“The national leaders want to form alliances with regional parties and empower regional parties. But everyone knows to tread carefully with Devegowda and Kumaraswamy and the father and son have a reputation of being unreliable. JD(S) wants all the major seats in Old Mysuru region and they want us to contest from North Karnataka. JD(S) wants to contest from 10 seats, which leaves Congress with 18. The leaders are unhappy about this proposition,” the Congress leader said.
Party insiders say that the tie-up with JD(S) may also mean that there are high chances of the party losing in certain regions. “Just because our leaders are supporting a pre-poll alliance does not mean that we can consolidate our vote banks and defeat BJP. At the grassroots level, it may as well be a disaster. Siddaramaiah and other leaders have taken up the issue with the high command,” the source added.
All India Congress Committee President Rahul Gandhi is expected to sort out the differences during his visit to Bidar on Saturday.
“The key will be to win Greater Bengaluru and the 13 North Karnataka districts. Most leaders in the party don’t see how a coalition with JD(S) is going to help,” the Congress leader said.