The Karnataka chief minister’s office on Saturday, 8 June announced that the long-delayed Cabinet expansion of the coalition government will take place on Wednesday, 12 June. At present, there are three ministerial berths vacant in Karnataka, two from the JD(S)s’ share and one from the Congress’.
In the aftermath of the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls that saw the BJP sweep 25 out of 28 Parliamentary seats in the state, the Congress party came out ahead in the urban local body (ULB) polls, held on 29 May, winning 509 of the total 1,361 seats that went to polls.
An uneasy calm settled on the state with both the BJP and coalition partners battling whispers of infighting and unhappy cadres.
JD(S) state party president AH Vishwanath put in his papers last week, taking responsibility for the general elections defeat, but also blaming Congress leader Siddaramaiah for the overall failure of the coalition. He is the third senior leader to attack Siddaramaiah in the recent past. For now, it remains to be seen whether these dissidents will be accommodated in the Cabinet expansion or if only the vacancies will be filled.
The two Independent MLAs, R Shankar and H Nagesh, are expected to get Cabinet positions this time in an attempt to keep them from being swayed to the BJP. Shankar and Nagesh had earlier withdrawn their support to the coalition. The BJP at present has 105 MLAs in the state Assembly.
Dissidence Within the Coalition
The buzz in both parties is about whether or not the dissidents will find a place in the Cabinet, in an attempt to placate them.
Before AH Vishwanath resigned, senior Congress MLAs Roshan Baig and Ramalinga Reddy had expressed their unhappiness with Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah.
Vishwanath, in his statement to the media, had said the coalition was former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s ‘play toy’ and it failed to take care of the needs of the coalition partners.
Last week, Reddy had claimed that neglecting senior Congress leaders in the government and the lack of organisational foresightedness of some ministers resulted in the bad defeat.
Hours later, Baig also chimed in with his support saying, “I agree with Ramalinga Reddy. Seniors are being sidelined, we should hold discussions. We can't be mute spectators to what's happening here. Senior leaders like Ramalinga Reddy and me are being sidelined.”
Both JD(S) and Congress party workers believe that the individual interests of the leaders had taken precedence over the interests of the coalition in the general elections. This can be seen in the way Siddaramaiah reportedly refused to give up the Mysuru seat (a Vokkaliga stronghold) for a Vokkaliga candidate and fielded a close Kuruba aide of his. Similarly, Deve Gowda’s insistence to compete from Tumakuru also resulted in the ousting of the incumbent Congress MP from there.
Thus, will Wednesday’s Cabinet expansion see the old guard find a place that they have long been clamouring for or will there be an inclusion of new ministers, beyond the three vacancies?