It seems that not even the coronavirus pandemic is stopping politicians in Karnataka from lobbying for ministerial berths. While the state government is busy with tackling the increasing COVID-19 cases in the state, seven BJP leaders have held multiple closed-door meetings to discuss strategies to procure ministerial berths.
Sources say Bijapur City MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal, Hukkeri MLA Umesh Katii, Bilagi MLA Murugesh Nirani and four others have met over the last few weeks to discuss strategies to procure ministerial berths.
On June 23, five Members of the Legislative Council in Karnataka are set to retire, leaving these five spots vacant. On Thursday, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy announced that Yediyurappa would nominate five leaders to the council. There are four vacant cabinet berths in Karnataka and Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had on February 8 said that Umesh Katti would get a cabinet berth in the next round of expansion. With no move to expand the cabinet due to the coronavirus pandemic, senior leaders in the BJP say that these MLAs are getting restless.
“Since MLC nominations are just around the corner, they want to put pressure on Yediyurappa to expand the cabinet. There are many other seniors who are in the race as well and by rebelling they hope to leverage this and get the minister posts,” a BJP leader said.
BJP MLAs Renukacharya, SA Ramdas from Mysuru, Arvind Limbavalli from Bengaluru and leaders from Dakshina Kannada are frontrunners for ministerial posts.
A few voices in the BJP are already making their discontent clear. On Friday, Bijapur MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal told media persons that Yediyurappa does not have decision-making powers anymore. “Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda are our leaders. Chief Minister Yediyurappa does not have decision-making powers,” he said.
In addition, Murugesh Nirani has been very vocal about his aspiration to become a minister. In January this year, Lingayat seer Vachanananda had openly told Yediyurappa to make Murugesh Nirani a minister or the community would withdraw its support. Yediyurappa had retorted and said that threatening him was unwarranted.
Once a close associate of BS Yediyurappa, Nirani and the Chief Minister grew apart after the fiasco surrounding the Lingayat seer’s ultimatum. “They were very close at one point and when Yediyurappa split from the BJP in 2012, Nirani had stood by him. Since a lot of the dynamics have changed in the party since 2012, it is not so easy to get a ministerial post without the high command’s approval,” the BJP source said.
BJP sources with knowledge about the closed-door meeting held recently said that if the posts are not granted, they would gather more support to split from the party and defect.
“AH Vishwanath is also unhappy now as it is uncertain whether he will be nominated for the post of MLC. Without that, he cannot become a minister. And there are many other leaders from north Karnataka, who are aspirants. We have not been given enough representation. Since there are many aspirants, the leaders are pushing for a reshuffle as well,” the source added.