Seven new ministers in Karnataka: Why the BJP chose them

The new list has a combination of BJP leaders and newly-inducted members.
BS Yediyurappa
BS Yediyurappa
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Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Wednesday announced a list of ministers who will be inducted into the state cabinet. The oath-taking ceremony will be held at 3.50 pm at Raj Bhavan on Wednesday. The list of new ministers has been sent to Governor Vajubhai Vala for approval. 

The new ministers include Hukkeri legislator Umesh Katti, Bilgi MLA Murugesh Nirani, Members of Legislative Council MTB Nagaraju, CP Yogeeshwar and R Shankar alias Pendulum Shankar, Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavalli and Sullia MLA S Angara. 

When Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa announced his new cabinet in August 2019, one of his closest and long-time friends: Umesh Katti, was kept out. The Hukkeri MLA had not shied away from expressing his disappointment openly. He had even called several rounds of meetings with leaders from north Karnataka as a show of strength and rebellion. At the time, BS Yediyurappa had openly promised that Umesh Katti would be given a ministerial berth when the cabinet expansion takes place. 

Sugar baron from Bagalkote district and chairman of Nirani Sugars Group, Murugesh Nirani also finds a place in the cabinet. A former minister and businessman belonging to the Panchamashali Lingayat community, Murugesh Nirani was one among the leaders from north Karnataka, who was disappointed in not being offered a ministerial portfolio when the cabinet was formed in August 2019. 

In January 2020, the seer of Panchamashali Guru Peeta, Vachanananda Swami, had warned Yediyurappa of the Lingayat community turning against him if Murugesh Nirani was not offered a ministerial berth. At a public event in Harihara, Vachananda Swamy was caught on camera saying, “Chief minister, you are a good person, Murugesh Nirani (BJP MLA) has helped you a lot, he has stood by you... If you leave his hands this time, the united Panchamasali community will leave your hands.”

The incident had caused quite a stir but BS Yediyurappa had stood his ground and in turn told the seer, “If you speak like this, I will go away... What are you speaking... Kindly pardon me, I will leave, you should not speak like this; if you speak like this, I can't work... You can give me suggestions, you cannot threaten me.” 

BJP sources said that ever since the incident occurred, Yediyurappa and the high command have been mulling over Nirani’s induction into the cabinet. There was apprehension that the community would turn against the BJP and the Lingayat community forms the party’s primary vote bank. Sources said that Nirani and Yediyurappa had tried to bridge their differences last year and that the Chief Minister recommended Nirani’s name to the party’s leaders in New Delhi. 

MLCs MTB Nagaraju, Pendulum Shankar and CP Yogeeshwar were given the portfolios as promised to them in 2019. MTB Nagaraju and R Shankar were among the 17 MLAs who defected from Congress to BJP and helped bring down the coalition government. BJP sources said that CP Yogeeshwar facilitated the talks between BJP leaders and the former rebels at the time due to which he is being rewarded with a ministerial post. 

The party, however, has kept Rajarajeshwari Nagar MLA Munirathna Naidu out of the cabinet and instead picked loyalist Aravind Limbavali. BJP sources said that the high command did not want to give Munirathna a portfolio as he has several criminal cases pending against him. Besides, the cabinet currently has several ministers from Bengaluru. “There was also a demand for more experienced and indigenous BJP leaders to be put in a position of power,” the source said. 

S Anagara was chosen as a ministerial candidate as the BJP’s cadre and leaders from coastal districts have been lobbying for a minister to be chosen from the region. Sullia is a BJP stronghold in Dakshina Kannada and leaders from the district had met with party state President Nalin Kumar Kateel on several occasions demanding that a leader from Dakshina Kannada district be appointed as a minister. “Dakshina Kannada is a BJP stronghold and it was a wise decision to appoint a minister from the region to retain the vote bank,” the source added.

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