It has been three weeks since the bye-election results were announced in Karnataka and till now, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has not decided yet which MLAs will be inducted as ministers in the planned cabinet expansion.
The Chief Minister Yediyurappa had hinted on December 22, that the expansion would take place only after January 15. This has set off discontent within the party, especially among the rebel leaders, who won the bye-polls in 11 of the 15 constituencies. The bye-polls were necessitated after 17 MLAs from the Congress and JD(S) had resigned from their posts and defected to the BJP.
Demand for new Dy CM posts
Party sources say that several leaders have demanded that posts for two new Deputy Chief Ministers be made. One among those lobbying for this, insiders say is BJP MLA from Molakalmuru, B Sriramulu. Appointed as the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Sriramulu had openly expressed disappointment earlier in August, when he was allotted this specific portfolio. Sriramulu had also said that he had not wanted the health portfolio.
With three Deputy Chief Ministers already in tow, party sources said that the high command is reluctant to appoint new ones. However, sources close to Ramesh Jarkiholi, MLA from Gokak, say that one of the promises made by the BJP, when he defected, was that he would be appointed the Dy CM.
â€śSriramulu also holds a few bargaining chips. He controls leaders in Ballari and their support is crucial for the BJP. This has become another concern for Yediyurappa,â€ť the source said.
Rebels v/s BJP loyalists
With the delay in appointing new ministers, sources say that both the formerly disqualified MLAs and several legislators of the BJP have demanded ministerial berths. Yediyurappa, who is adamant that the rebel leaders be given ministers, cannot afford to alienate his own party men.
There are currently 16 vacancies in the state cabinet. Yediyurappa is planning to appoint 14 ministers and keep two seats vacant. Of these two seats, sources say that he wants 11 of them to be given to the MLAs, who won the bye-elections after defecting from the Congress and JD(S).
This leaves three vacancies, which several leaders are eyeing. The pressure is also on Yediyurappa from six BJP MLAs in Dakshina Kannada to appoint at least one of them as a minister. The partyâ€™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.
The partyâ€™s leaders from Dakshina Kannada, including MP and BJP state President Nalin Kumar Kateel are believed to have put their foot down and demanded that Angara be given a ministerial portfolio, as ignoring it would spell trouble for the party in its stronghold.
Disqualified MLAs R Shankar, MTB Nagaraj and AH Vishwanath are also aspiring to become members of the Legislative Council and thereby become eligible to be appointed as ministers.
â€śLeaders like Eshwarappa and CT Ravi do not want all the remaining berths to go to the rebels. The deal was that they would be given ministerial berths if they won elections. They have not,â€ť the source said.
The two forgotten rebels
Yediyurappa is mulling over keeping two portfolios vacant as bye-polls are yet to take place in two segments â€“ Maski and Rajarajeshwari Nagar. Pratapgouda Patil, MLA from Maski had moved the Karnataka High Court against his disqualification by former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. Muniratna, the former MLA from RR Nagar, has been accused of voter fraud and the case is being heard in the Karnataka HC.
Since the matter is sub-judice, BJP insiders say that Yediyurappa is willing to keep his promise of giving rebels ministerial berths if they won the elections.
â€śSince these two segments have not gone to polls, it is better to keep posts vacant than face rebellion later. Certain leaders like Aravind Limbavalli and Umesh Katti are not happy about this. Yediyurappa is in a fix and the leaders in Delhi must intervene and sort this out. They won't do that until the CAA protests simmer down,â€ť the source said.