Hours before 29 ministers of Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai's new Cabinet took oath, BJP cadres erupted in protest, demanding the induction of some MLAs into the cabinet.
However, among the protestors, conspicuous by their absence, were the staunch detractors of former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
In Bommai's new Cabinet, except for Murugesh Nirani, the MLAs and ministers who had raised objections against Yediyurappa during his two year term, which ended on 26 July 2021, did not find a place. More surprisingly, Yediyurappa's family members, including son Vijayendra, did not make it to the Cabinet.
As the Cabinet ranks were decided following discussions between Bommai and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda, it is safe to assume that Yediyurappa's detractors were pointedly shunned by the party's top brass.
In return, assuming a stoic silence, BS Yediyurappa and his son Vijayendra were present at the oath taking ceremony that was held 4 August.
Is this indicative of a truce between two warring factions – Yediyurappa's group and National General Secretary BL Santhosh's group – of the BJP in Karnataka?
BSY's Silenced Detractors Support Bommai
Among those who were denied portfolios in the new Cabinet were Arvind Bellad and CP Yogeshwar. Bellad, who is Huballi-Dharwad MLA of the BJP and Yogeshwar, who was minister of minor irrigation and water resources in Yediyurappa's Cabinet, were vocal against the former CM on more than one occasion. Both Bellad and Yogeshwar had accused Yediyurappa's son Vijayendra of interfering with administrative matters of the state. Bellad had also accused Yediyurappa of having tapped his cell phone.
Others who did not make it to the list were S Suresh Kumar, who was Karnataka's education minister and Jagadish Shettar, a former chief minister and minister for large and medium industries.
While Shettar was considered for the post of Karnataka CM after Yediyurappa resigned on 26 July, Kumar is believed to have fallen out with the former CM.
Did the BJP high command earnestly try to keep BS Yediyurappa happy? "During the talks around Yediyurappa's resignation, the high command had made it clear that he will continue to be one of the prominent leaders of the party in Karnataka. The decision to select Basavaraj Bommai as the new CM stemmed from this understanding and the new Cabinet reflects the same sentiment," a national leader of the BJP told The Quint. Meaning, the BJP high command has sent a strong message to dissidents that continued protests about Yediyurappa's presence in the party will not be supported.
Abiding by the party line, Bellad told media persons on 4 August that he was not expecting a Cabinet berth and is not disappointed.
However, what really could have helped silence Yediyurappa's detractors is the presence of Murugesh Nirani in the Cabinet.
Nirani, a Panchamasali Lingayat leader, was an ardent critic of Yediyurappa and was even considered for the post of CM. "With the induction of Nirani into the Cabinet, it is clear that the high command did consider the recommendations of other factions within the BJP. If it were left to Yediyurappa, Nirani would not have made it to the list," a senior journalist who covers Karnataka BJP said.
BJP's Balancing Act in Karnataka?
While Nirani's retention is meant to pacify those who oppose Yediyurappa, the BJP did not overtly support the senior leader's family either. Political predictions that Yediyurappa's son Vijayendra will make it to the Cabinet were proved wrong.
According to Bommai, Vijayendra's role was discussed at length with the high command. "Vijayendra could still get a role in the Centre in due course," a BJP insider told The Quint. Retaining him in the current Cabinet would have irked BJP leaders, including Nirani, who had raised their voice against Vijayendra, the leader explained.
Yediyurappa, who is known to pick his fights openly, did not object to his son's exclusion.
"For now, both Yediyurappa and his detractors are on the same page. The high command was able to satisfy all of them," a BJP source said, confidently. The party high command has also maintained a caste balance within the Cabinet. While seven ministers are Vokkaligas, eight are Lingayats. Both are dominant castes in Karnataka. The BJP also selected seven OBCs, three Dalits and one Tribal as ministers.
Such careful caste engineering has been Yediyurappa's strong suit. Bommai seems to have emulated his predecessor. Bommai is believed to be a close confidant of Yediyurappa.
With these Cabinet choices, the BJP high command has sent a signal of 'continuity' and not of disruption in the governance of Karnataka.