Karnataka cabinet expansion a tough nut to crack for BJP

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BANGALORE: Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa has missed yet another date for expanding his cabinet. Yediyurappa, who has all along been saying he would expand the Cabinet after 'Makara Sankaranthi' on January 15, said he will undertake the expansion before he leaves for Davos on January 20.

 

The chief minister said that he will either visit Delhi on January 15 or wait till party president Amit Shah arrives in the state on January 17 on a two-day visit of Karnataka to get party high command’s nod on the choice of the ministers.

The task appears difficult with all disqualified MLAs who won the December 5 by-elections on BJP tickets and several senior party legislators lobbying for the ministerial berths. He cannot avoid the disqualified MLAs since they switched sides and toppled the previous Kumaraswamy government on his promise that they will be accommodated in the cabinet.

To make matters worse, some of the disqualified MLAs, who lost the elections, have also entered the fray along with several other disgruntled old guards in the party with demand for a berth in the cabinet. Keeping caste and regional equations is another big challenge before Yediyurappa.

The BJP is caught in a dilemma over balancing regional representation. Three of the 11 are from Belagavi district alone, which already has two other ministers, including deputy chief minister, in the Cabinet.

However, the chief minister has already assured the rebels who have won the by-election that the will fulfil the promise he made to them. Currently there are 18 ministers, including the chief minister. He is left with only 16 positions to accommodate the mounting demand from different quarters.

Cabinet expansion will not be an easy task for the Chief Minister as he will have to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators as promised and also make place for old guards, upset at being "neglected" in the first round of the induction exercise.

Meanwhile, A H Vishwanath, a disqualified legislator, who lost on a BJP ticket from Hunsur, expressed his ministerial ambitions, as he sought ministerial posts to all 17 disqualified legislators, whose revolt led to collapse of the coalition government and paved way for BJP to come to power.

"Asking (minister's post) is our responsibility because 17 of us have cooperated for his government to come to power and demolition of unconstitutional coalition government. We have asked that 17 of should be given opportunity," he was quoted by Times of India as saying.

Another disqualified legislator who lost during the bye-polls on a BJP ticket, MTB Nagaraj from Hoskote, too has been lobbying for a ministerial post.

Political observers aren’t sure how Yediyurappa will strike a balance of power in the cabinet since several regions and castes have no representation in the cabinet as of now. While there are communities that have no representation, some like Lingayat are over-represented.

There are eight (including the CM) Lingayats, the community that forms the party's core vote-bank. There are three Vokkaligas, the other dominant community in Karnataka, and with rebel Narayana Gowda getting elected, he could possibly add to the caste strength. There is no way he would not be considered as he is the only MLA from the Mandya district for the party, a district where BJP has scant support-base.

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