By Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru: Discontent is brewing in Karnataka’s ruling BJP as many of its loyal and senior legislators were ignored again in the cabinet expansion, a party source said on Friday.
“Many senior legislators who have been loyal to the party (BJP) over the years are miffed that they were overlooked again for cabinet posts while defectors are rewarded at their expense,” the source told IANS on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to brief the media.
Admitting that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa was under pressure to fulfil the promise he made to the defectors of inducting them into his six-month-old fledgling government, the source said many loyal MLAs who won in the May 2018 Assembly elections in the southern state were upset as their prospects of becoming ministers were dashed again after being left out of the first cabinet expansion on August 20, 2019.
“With only six vacancies remaining in the 34-member ministry to be filled in the next cabinet expansion before the state assembly budget session begins on March 2, those in the race or hoping for a minister’s post are lobbying harder, as it is now or never for many of them, with the tenure of the Lower House being only three years and 3 months till May 2023,” the source said.
Though three more legislators were to join the cabinet with the 10 newly-elected MLAs, fear of revolt from disgruntled lawmakers forced the Chief Minister to drop them from the final list sent to Governor Vajubhai Vala on Wednesday night for oath taking.
The party’s state unit president Naleen Kumar Kateel has been tasked to pacify the miffed MLAs and assure them that they will be considered for the posts of head (Chairman) of state-run boards or corporations with a cabinet rank in the event of missing the ministerial posts.
“As the remaining 100-odd ruling party legislators cannot be made ministers due to the constitutional limit of having only 15 per cent of the Assembly strength (225 members), many of them would be considered for heads of boards and corporations, which are 91 in the southern state,” the source pointed out.
Of the 17 defectors, including 14 from the Congress and three from Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), 13 contested in the December 5 by-elections in 15 assembly segments among which 11 won and two lost the seats.
By-elections in two more assembly seats (Muski in Raichur district and RR Nagar in southwest Bengaluru) are pending the outcome of the litigation in the Karnataka High Court over their results in the May 2018 Assembly polls.
As the remaining seven defectors are also waiting for being rewarded with cabinet posts for having resigned from their Assembly seats, which resulted in the fall of the 14-month-old JD-S-Congress coalition government and the return of the BJP to power again in July, prospects of more party MLAs becoming ministers are bleak with only six cabinet berths vacant.
“Yediyurappa is in a tight situation as he has promised to make all the 17 defectors ministers, who made their sacrifices to make him the Chief Minister for the fourth time in over a decade in the southern state,” the source admitted.
Though JD-S defector A.H. Vishwanath and Congress defector M.T.B. Nagaraj lost their seats in the by-elections, they are waiting to get into the ministry by becoming members of the legislative council, where some vacancies are due in May.
Congress defector Mahesh Kumathalli, who won the Athani seat on a BJP ticket in the by-election, is also miffed as he was left out of the latest cabinet expansion on Thursday in which 10 defectors were rewarded.
“The Chief Minister faces an uphill task in filling the remaining six cabinet posts, what with seven defectors and several party MLAs vying for ministership,” the source added.
With the two dominant communities in the state Lingayats and Vokkaligas having seven and nine berths in the 28-member ministry, MLAs belonging to other castes are also upset over the lack of proportionate representation to their communities.
As Bengaluru with seven ministers, and Belagavi with four ministers have cornered over 50 per cent of the cabinet for the state’s northwest region, 12 districts across the state remain unrepresented in the 6-month-old BJP ministry.