The Karnataka cabinet expansion and reshuffle is expected to take place after January 15. However, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is pushing hard to convince the high command that the posts of three Deputy Chief Ministers that were created in August 2019, must be done away with.
BJP insiders say that the Deputy Chief Ministers were appointed in order to check Yediyurappa’s powers in the state. However, with successive victories in Lok Sabha elections and the December 2019 bye-polls, BS Yediyurappa has a cloak of goodwill around him.
“He is now convincing the high command that there is no need for any DCM. This will ensure that Yediyurappa is the most powerful leader in the Karnataka BJP. It will also solve the dilemma of whether two new DCM posts need to be created. There is already a tiff between B Sriramulu and Ramesh Jarkiholi as both want to be made Deputy Chief Ministers. With no DCM post itself, everyone can be pacified,” a BJP leader close to Yediyurappa said.
When the Karnataka cabinet was announced in August 2019, it came as a shocker to many that Chief Minister Yediyurappa had been bested by his long-standing rival within the party – the BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) – BL Santosh.
Yediyurappa’s associates Umesh Katti, Murugesh Nirani and Arvind Limbavalli had been kept out of the cabinet; while his detractors Laxman Savadi, who was caught watching porn in the Assembly; and Dr CN Ashwath Narayan, were appointed as Deputy Chief Ministers. Govind Karjol, the third DCM is the only one among the three deputies, who favours Yediyurappa.
Yediyurappa and BL Santosh’s rivalry within the party is not new. The two leaders have been indulging in a game of one-upmanship, ever since the mining scam in Ballari involving Gali Janardhana Reddy had dented Yediyurappa’s reputation.
In 2017, when incumbent Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa was determined to continue the Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, to mobilise the Kuruba community’s support for the BJP. Fearful of Eshwarappa’s success, Yediyurappa had opposed the brigade. At the time too, the rivalry between Yediyurappa and Santosh had surfaced as many claimed that Eshwarappa was Santosh’s proxy.
Ministers may be dropped
BJP sources close to Yediyurappa say that the CM wants to drop at least three incumbent ministers and offer those posts to his loyalists – Arvind Limbavali, Umesh Katti and Murugesh Nirani. However, several senior leaders are believed to have opposed this idea and have demanded that Angara, the Sullia MLA be accommodated into the cabinet instead of Nirani.
“Appeasing our loyal vote bank in Dakshina Kannada is more important to the party,” the source said.
BJP sources say that Basavaraj Bommai may also be shifted out of the Home department, which Katti is currently eyeing. Of the 11 rebels, who won the bye-elections, not all may be accommodated during this round of expansion and reshuffling.
“There are three rebel MLAs from Belagavi. Ramesh Jarkiholi has to be in the cabinet and hence the Kagwad MLA Srimanth Patil and Athani MLA Mahesh Kumatahalli may be kept out. Yediyurappa has agreed to this as well. If these two are inducted then there will be four leaders from Belagavi, who will be in the cabinet. This would indicate that the party is neglecting leaders from other regions,” the source added.