The Karnataka Cabinet expansion is going to be done by the end of the month, and according to sources, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has made his decision on who will get Cabinet berths and who won’t. The Chief Minister has to balance the promise of ministerial berths, made to former Congress and JD(S) MLAs who rebelled and led to the fall of the previous government; with the aspirations and demands of long term BJP loyalists. Yediyurappa has decided to accommodate some members of both factions, and also taken in regional considerations, to decide on the line-up.
Highly placed sources in the BJP say that Yediyurappa and the BJP high command are mulling over cutting off some of the rebels who won in Belagavi and Bengaluru. Currently, there are three rebel MLAs from Belagavi district including Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Mahesh Kumatahalli (Athani) and Srimanth Patil (Kagwad). Sources say that Ramesh Jarkiholi would be given a ministerial berth and he would be put in charge of managing Kumatahalli and Patil.
Similarly, BJP insiders say that out of the three rebels in Bengaluru, only one or two will get Cabinet berths. ST Somashekar (Yeshwanthpur) and Byrathi Basavaraj (KR Puram) could be made ministers while Gopalaiah from Mahalakshmi Layout segment may not bag the Cabinet berth. “There is also talk that only one MLA from Bengaluru would be inducted and that rebel would be asked to manage the others who did not get the berths,” the source added.
Accommodating BJP loyalists
The promise made to the rebel MLAs, who were to be “rewarded” for their role in bringing down the Congress-JD(S) government last year, gave rise to discontent within the BJP’s state unit, where party loyalists felt sidelined. Senior leaders like Umesk Katti and Murugesh Nirani began lobbying for ministerial berths and also gathering support to ensure that a few loyalists get ministerial berths.
Although the high command is set against appointing Nirani as a minister, BJP sources say that Umesh Katti, Aravind Limbavali and Angara from Dakshina Kannada district are front runners for bagging portfolios. Yediyurappa has an obligation of ensuring that a minister from the coastal district, the party’s stronghold, is accommodated in the Cabinet to ensure that the party’s loyal vote bank has adequate representation.
Axing existing ministers
In order to manage the feud between the rebels and loyalists, the party’s seniors are mulling over axing certain ministers, who are currently serving in the Cabinet.
A BJP source said that the party is mulling over getting a senior leader to “voluntarily withdraw and resign” from the ministerial berth in order to quell the discontent.
Sources say that the high command is mulling over removing Minister for Environment and Forests, Mines and Geology CC Patil, and a senior leader – either Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai or Large-Scale Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar – would be asked to step down and manage the disgruntled leaders.
“Either Bommai or Shettar will be made to resign. This is to show that even senior leaders are not exempt when it comes to ensuring that a stable government can prevail. If one senior leader resigns voluntarily, the other aspirants can be managed easily,” the source added.
BJP insiders say that it is also necessary to keep a few Cabinet berths vacant, to ensure that aspirants do not openly rebel. “That’s why all 11 rebels cannot be made ministers. The Cabinet will become Belagavi or Bengaluru-heavy. Representation must be distributed equally and for that some sacrifices have to be made,” the source added.