BENGALURU: The BJP high command, which had kept the ministerial aspirants waiting till midnight and cleared the state ministers list just hours before they were to take oath on Tuesday morning, seems to have backed Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s choice for the cabinet expansion. Portfolios of the new ministers are yet to be announced. Finally, not only was the cabinet appointed, the BJP got its state chief in Nalin Kumar Kateel.
The party also seems to be looking at further consolidating its Lingayat support base as seven out 17 new ministers are from the dominant community, followed by Vokkaligas and Scheduled Caste which bagged three each. Lingayats had backed BJP and community strongman Yediyurappa in the 2018 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
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There were hardly any surprises in the much-awaited ministry expansion taken up 25 days after Yediyurappa took over as CM, though some senior leaders, who were seen as ‘automatic choice’, had to be kept out as there was limited scope for political manoeuvring for the CM.
The remaining 16 slots are said to have been kept vacant to accommodate rebel JDS and Congress MLAs after the Supreme Court verdict on the petition challenging their disqualification. Some analysts termed Tuesday’s exercise as ‘old wine in a new bottle’ as 14 out of 17 of those inducted in the ministry had worked as ministers in the previous BJP governments in the state.
Four of them, including the only woman minister Shashikala Jolle, are first -time ministers. Jolle is said to be backed by the RSS and is the high command’s choice. Bengaluru got the lion’s share with four ministers — R Ashoka, S Suresh Kumar, V Somanna and CN Ashwanthnarayan — while there was some discontent from other regions that remained unrepresented in the first round.
There is better representation for North Karnataka. But the old Mysuru region, including Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Mandya, Ramanagara does not have any representation. Former CM Jagadish Shettar, KS Eshwarappa, Govind Karjol, Basavaraj Bommai, Prabhu Chavan, B Sriramulu, CT Ravi, JC Madhuswamy and C C Patil are among those inducted.
Independent MLA H Nagesh, who withdrew support to the coalition government to back the BJP, was rewarded with a berth. While Kota Srinivas Poojari is the only MLC to make it to the cabinet, former minister Laxman Savadi, a Lingayat leader from Belagavi, was rewarded despite losing the 2018 assembly elections. He has to be elected as an MLA or MLC within six months.
His induction raised many eyebrows, but sources in the party said that he was rewarded for ensuring the BJP candidates’ victory in the border districts in neighbouring Maharashtra during the assembly polls and also for his role in getting some Congress and JDS rebels to support BJP’s efforts to form the government in Karnataka.
However, with many seniors like Umesh Katti not making the cut, their supporters hit the streets in protest even as the new ministers were taking oath at Raj Bhavan. Quelling discontent within the party will now be the first priority for the CM and the BJP leadership, while the new team of ministers hit the ground running with their announcement to visit flood-hit areas.
Political analyst Prof Harish Ramaswamy says unlike what happened during the Assembly Speaker’s election, this time around the party high command had given the CM full liberty to choose his ministers, but there was no fresh approach to the ministry formation. Political analyst Mahadev Prakash too said with the high command fully backing him, it is not difficult for Yediyurappa to contain discontent within the party.
However, some sources in the party said Yediyurappa got his team in consultation with the high command. But keeping his loyalists like Murugesh Nirani out of the ministry indicates that it was not all his choice, sources added.
Tuesday muhurat, different strokes
- First task: New ministers yet to get portfolios; hit the ground running, to visit flood-affected areas in the state
- Unusual: Former chief minister Jagadish Shettar took oath as cabinet minister. He was the CM between 2012 and 2013
- Loyalty pays: Lakshman Savadi, the new minister, who lost the Assembly elections in 2018, was rewarded for his loyalty
- Discontent brews: The cabinet expansion fuelled discontent as many seniors like Umesh Katti were kept out. Supporters took to the streets