Nearly four weeks after taking oath on 26 July, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa will finally be getting a Cabinet. After multiple rounds of discussions internally and meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Yediyurappa has finally received the green signal to form his Cabinet.
“I have spoken to PM Modi and Amit Shah. We have forwarded the names of 13 MLAs, and are looking to induct 13-14 people at this time. There may be one or two people less here and there. The final list of names will be ready by Monday evening, and the Cabinet expansion will take place on Tuesday morning,” he said.
Yediyurappa had attracted the scorn of JD(S) and Congress party leaders for not having any ministers in place, even weeks after the BJP came to power, through a long drawn-out battle for power in the state.
The absence of a functional Cabinet was felt strongly this month as Yediyurappa single-handedly had to handle the extreme flood situation in the state, with the assistance and coordination of bureaucrats led by chief secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar.
Yediyurappa will have to toe a fine line to accommodate several competing interests vying for the ministerial berths. He had reportedly submitted 18 names of possible ministers to the high command in Delhi, but Shah had reportedly instructed Yeddiyurappa to wait for the final list, cleared by him.
According to a report prepared by BJP leader Murgesh Nirani, there are 56 senior leaders in BJP, who have won three elections or more and expect a ministerial position in the Cabinet. However, there are only 34 Cabinet posts in Karnataka, which opens up a lot of scope for disgruntled MLAs to jilt the party for not getting their due.
Ironically, BJP would then find itself in the same situation that led to the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition.
North Karnataka Likely to Get Better Representation
Considering that the old Mysuru region in south Karnataka was a stronghold of the former coalition government, the new Cabinet will reportedly feature strong representation from north Karnataka and the coast, that has also been a BJP stronghold for decades.
With many of the now disqualified rebel MLAs belonging to the old Mysuru region in interior Karnataka, the party found it easy to sideline MLAs from this regions and focus on keeping their MLAs from other regions happy.
Even in the last two governments, led by the Congress’ Siddaramaiah and the JD(S)’ HD Kumaraswamy, voters in the north had frequently voiced their dissatisfaction with the leadership, claiming that the northern states were getting a raw deal when it came to release of funds or having their problems heard. Several farmer communities from north Karnataka had claimed discrimination by the Kumaraswamy government in his farm loan waiver scheme.
The Caste Factor
As the face of the state’s Lingayat interests, Yediyurappa will face a tough choice when it comes to accommodating various Lingayat MLAs vying for a Cabinet berth.
The BJP won 41 seats in North Karnataka in the 2018 Assembly polls and most of the MLAs belong to the Lingayat community. Senior Lingayat MLAs like Jagadish Shettar, Umesh V Katti, Madhuswamy, Somanna and others are believed to be at the forefront in the race for plum posts.
However, Yediyurappa will not be able to play favourites without consequences. MLAs from different castes, who played a role in the BJP coming to power, would want their work to be recognised.
According to The Times of India, Yediyurappa will aim to have a balance of members from the Vokkaliga and Brahmin communities as well, apart from including MLAs from the SC/ST communities.
The Rebel MLAs
According to reports, the decision to induct a smaller Cabinet was mainly due to uncertainty surrounding the fate of the rebel MLAs. Around 12 rebels have reportedly been promised minister posts, if they parted ways with the coalition which means that BJP leaders also have to account for them, while planning the Cabinet.
As per the disqualification order, the MLAs have been barred from participating in polls till 2023 however, they have moved SC challenging this order. While their fate hangs in the balance, Yediyurappa will be careful about how many people he inducts on 20 August.
(With inputs from The Times of India and The News Minute)