A CABINET expansion carried out by Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on January 13 to take his team strength to 33 – one less than its full capacity of 34 – has exposed deep divisions and a lack of unity in the state BJP unit.
Contrary to expectations that the cabinet expansion will momentarily strengthen the political position of Yediyurappa, the move appears to have exposed multiple loyalties and differences in the party – despite the Chief Minister trying to tone down his own wishes in the choice of new ministers.
With more dissidence likely to emerge in the party and within the cabinet when portfolios are allotted Yediyurappa has decided to hold back on portfolio allotments until the conclusion of a two-day visit to the state by Union Home Minister and senior party leader Amit Shah.
“Home Minister Amit Shah will be arriving on Saturday and will leave the next day. Portfolios will be allotted after that,” Yediyurappa said on Friday when asked about the date the portfolios will be allotted to the seven new ministers.
The cabinet expansion which saw Yediyurappa accommodating three members of the legislative council – two of them new entrants to the party from the Congress and third a leader who lost the 2018 state polls – has resulted in a lot of dissent among core BJP workers and nearly 10-12 MLAs who are among the 105 who won the 2018 polls on BJP tickets.
The fact that Yediyurappa has given 12 of the available 34 ministerial posts to new entrants to the BJP from the Congress and JDS – who were among 17 MLAs who helped the BJP overthrow the Congress-JDS coalition and muster the majority of 113 seats for forming the government – is a source of anger among party MLAs as well as the fact that five MLCs have been included.
The most virulent statements against the Chief Minister’s choices has come from Vijayapura MLA Basavaraj Patil Yatnal, who has repeatedly attacked Yediyurappa and said that he will not last long as CM – without attracting any censure from the party high command.
“Hard work and honesty have not been recognised in the cabinet expansion. The Chief Minister has given prominence to people who blackmailed him to make them ministers. One of them is now a political secretary and two are ministers,” Yatnal said in Vijayapura after the expansion. “Yediyurappa has blackmailed the party by using the Veerashaiva Lingayat community. Even though Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah were not keen, the cabinet expansion has been done.”
“Yediyurappa and Vijayendra [the CM’s son] have bought out Congress leaders as well. Is the Congress alive as an opposition anymore? It is all adjustment politics. Siddaramaiah, Shivakumar, Zameer Ahmed Khan, K J George are with Yediyurappa in running the government. Those who insult Hindu Gods are becoming ministers,” Yatnal said.
Other MLAs who have been vocal in their dissent are Sathish Reddy, who lamented that he would not have been ignored if his political mentor H N Ananth Kumar was alive; Arvind Bellad, who said even his father was ignored in the past for cabinet positions in the BJP; Raju Gouda, who said only MLAs from Bangalore and Belagavi have got prominence. Some other core BJP MLAs who have expressed unhappiness include Sunil Kumar, S A Ramadas, Thippareddy, M P Renukacharya, Abhay Patil, Shankargouda Patil and Somashekhar Reddy.
“Some 10-12 MLAs are unhappy. If they have any complaints, let them approach the party leadership in Delhi. They should not bring the party into disrepute by making public comments about all this,” Yediyurappa said while attempting to deflect the blame.
Former Congress MLA Munirathna Naidu, who had been promised a cabinet induction by Yediyurappa for his defection to the BJP but was rejected at the last moment, has stated that he has been advised by the party general secretary in-charge for Karnataka Arun Singh to wait for a while and that he
Yediyurappa has been unhappy for several months over the BJP leadership’s failure to grant him clearance to expand his cabinet. There have also been growing complaints of the state government being run by his family and of corruption from within the BJP ranks itself. Yediyurappa wrangled a clearance for effecting the cabinet expansion on January 10 following a meeting with Shah and other central leaders like J P Nadda and Arun Singh.
“It is natural for those who have been denied cabinet positions to object. Other than MLA S Angara and Umesh Katti to some extent no party regulars have been made minister. Only those who have come from outside and are discarded have been made ministers. Many core MLAs have as a result not had a look in despite the lapse of three years since elections. They have seen that they are not receiving funds and no development is taking place in their areas,” a senior leader said.would be rewarded appropriately.
Contrary to expectations of the cabinet expansion steadying the boat for Yediyurappa for a few months, it has in the immediate term had a rocking effect, the party leader said.
“Everyday if he is shown as weak by complaining MLAs, it will be easy for the high command to change him. When the MLAs start demanding a change, Yediyurappa may not have anyone with him. None of the ministers will stand by him. He has no support,” the party leader said. “The expansion was the desire of Yediyurappa. If the high command was doing it then there would have been elaborate discussions before the expansion. There would have been meetings with a lot of leaders before anything was finalised.”
“A man who Yediyurappa made an MLC – H Vishwanath – is abusing him. Yatnal who was brought into the party by Yediyurappa after fighting with Jagadish Shettar is abusing him. Satish Reddy, M P Renukacharya, Arvind Bellad, Sunil Kumar and Thippareddy are upset. There is no one who is happy,” the BJP leader said. “In the cabinet, there are multiple groups.”