MYSURU: The wild card entry of the first time MLA Geetha Mahadev Prasad, widow of former minister H S Mahadeva Prasad, into the cabinet at the last moment has not gone down well with many in the Congress party.
Though Siddaramaiah, in the run-up to the byelections from Gundlupet constituency, had announced that he would make Geetha a Minister, many in the party had never presumed that Siddaramaiah would actually go ahead and do it.
As the specultations of likely entrants to the cabinet were doing the rounds, senior leaders like Tiptur MLA Shadakshari and Ashok Pattan from Belagavi district were the front runners. Shadakshari was ahead of others in the race as a Lingayat leader from the old Mysuru region to fill the void created by H S Mahadeva Prasad’s death. Mahadeva Prasad was a bridge between the Veerashaiva Mutts and the Congress after V Somanna quit Congress to join BJP.
Siddaramaiah, instead of throwing weight behind other more senior Veerashaiva MLAs, peferred to pick Geetha as apart from being a Lingayat from Old Mysuru region, her induction would also enhance representation for women in the Cabinet.
According to sources, the Chief Minister is keen to keep Mutts in good humour in wake of attack from opposition parties accusing the government of trying to divide Lingayat-Veerashaiva community over separate religion status. Siddaramaiah, by picking Geetha, is seen to have earned the goodwill of powerful JSS Mutt that has strong influence in both Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts.
He hopes that the Mutt’s blessing will help his son Yathindra, who is likely to test election waters from Varuna constituency, dominated by Veerashaivas. The move will also help Siddaramaiah who is likely to contest from Chamundeshwari and PWD Minister HC Mahadevappa who is keen to shift to Nanjangud constituency.
The Chief Minister is aware of the clout and support BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa enjoys among the Lingayats and would prefer to draw a significant chunk of the community votes to Congress in the ensuing election. Geetha’s induction is likely to help the party in this mission.
At the same time, Siddaramaiah can’t neglect Shadakshari as he is also from Veerashaiva-dominated Tumukuru district and one among the legislators who have not come from dynasty politics.
Big challenge for a newbie
Geetha will have a task ahead to perform well and live up to the expectations of Chief Minister and the Congress party and emerge as Veerashaiva face of the party to counter the influence of Yeddyurappa in old Mysuru region in next seven months. If she fails to shed her limitations and confine to Gundlupet constituency or Chamarajnagar, then Siddaramaiah’s gamble may not benefit the Congress much. Political commentator Prof Muzafar Asadi said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is keeping the caste arithmetic in mind when the Lingayat-Veerashaiva issues is still widely debated.
Senior legislators unhappy
Many senior legislators including former ministers are unhappy with the induction of Geeta and Timmapur into the ministry. Tiptur MLA K Shadakshari was disappointed at the last-minute changes that deprived him of a ministerial berth that went to Geetha. “I should have been inducted into the ministry. The Chief Minister had even spoken to me about it. I have been in Congress since 1980 and elected to Assembly twice. But I have not been given a berth in the ministry. But I am not dismayed,” Shadakshari said.
Traffic blues outside Raj Bhavan
As expected, the hordes of Congress supporters waiting outside Raj Bhavan on Friday evening, brought the traffic to a standstill. Bursting firecrackers and shouting slogans in support of the new ministers, the crowd blocked traffic to such an extent that the traffic police were forced to block the entry into Raj Bhavan road for a short time at Thimmaiah Circle.