Finally, a date has been set for the expansion of the six-month-old H D Kumaraswamy Cabinet in Karnataka. With political circles abuzz with talks of a fresh crisis in the Congress and a bigger BJP plot to bring down the government, the decision to go ahead with the much-delayed exercise to fill eight vacant slots in the ministry couldn’t have come any sooner.
While the exercise itself is fraught with the danger of exposing the fragile coalition to more troubles, the alliance partners have little choice other than to take a chance as they would want to sort out inner-party dissent before heading into tricky seat-sharing negotiations for the 2019 general elections.
As per the plan, six ministers from the Congress and two from the JD(S) will be inducted on December 22. On the same day, in a smart move that could minimise chances of a rebellion, 30 more MLAs—20 from the Congress and 10 from the JD(S) —will be accommodated as heads of boards and corporations, and another nine (in the ratio of 6:3) as parliamentary secretaries.
In effect, 47 legislators will find a place in the political administration at one go. While this will give the coalition a chance to accommodate a majority of the disgruntled elements and help block the BJP’s efforts to wean away members to its camp, some heartburn may still remain. And it’s not going to be a smooth exercise either. A Congress meeting on Wednesday gave an indication of that when several seniors stayed away in an apparent bid to build pressure for their inclusion.
Distributing the six available ministry slots among the many aspirants, setting right the perceived regional imbalance, catering to various caste lobbies and dealing with pressure tactics will test the Congress once again. But if the exercise is carried out with minimum damage, the government would have ensured its stability for some more time. It also remains to be seen if the coalition sticks to the expansion date or is forced to backtrack under the weight of its own contradictions.