BENGALURU: Ever since the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government came to power, after the collapse of the JDS-Congress coalition government, B Sriramulu had been eyeing the social welfare department. At least on two different occasions, Sriramulu met Chief Minister Yediyurappa, seeking a change of portfolio, especially after he often found himself overshadowed by Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar in the government’s efforts to battle the pandemic.
On Monday, Sriramulu was finally given the portfolio he desired, but it brought him no joy. On the contrary, he was annoyed and insulted. Losing his ministry to Sudhakar comes at a time when Sriramulu’s perception as undisputed Valmiki community leader in the BJP is being threatened by Ramesh Jarkiholi’s improving positioning. Incidentally, both Sudhakar and Jarkiholi joined the BJP in 2019, after rebelling against the coalition government.
Sources in the know of the development said that the Chief Minister had discussed a change in portfolios at least a week ago with Sriramulu, but the latter had anticipated the change as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle after expansion. Even as the Chief Minister’s Office maintains that the decision is aimed at effective Covid-19 management and to eliminate a dual power centre leading to confusion and delays, Sriramulu is said to be keen on resigning from the cabinet, deeming the reshuffle an insult.
Sriramulu has constantly been in a controversy and is a subject of ridicule for officials and the Opposition over Covid-19 management. Whether it was his absence from the Assembly in March due to his daughter’s wedding when the pandemic broke out, or participation in a felicitation event in Chitradurga, flouting all norms of social distancing as cases spiked, or suggesting gargling and lockdown as a solution for Covid-19, or even expressing helplessness over the situation in Karnataka that ‘God alone can help us’, Sriramulu has constantly found himself in hot water.
He was also constantly attacked by the Opposition for his reluctance to respond to questions on the alleged mismanagement of Covid-19 funds, and queries about the pandemic. Given the situation, Sriramulu is said to be convinced that the change of ministry is an insult, questioning his competence. On the upside, Sriramulu hopes to use the social welfare ministry to enhance his dwindling popularity among SC/ST communities. The social welfare ministry — a heavy budgeted, big-ticket portfolio — was offered to Sriramulu, who has been a huge support to Yediyurappa. The reshuffling of portfolios is also an indication that a cabinet expansion is not on the cards immediately.