For newly sworn-in Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, the torment doesn’t seem to be ending. If he expected dissension to reduce after the announcement of portfolios, that has been belied. The choice of three deputy chief ministers and the lightweight portfolios to senior colleagues in the state BJP have inflamed anger among them.
If one word were to describe the choice of legislators for ministership and the portfolios allotted to them, that word would be “intriguing”. No one is able to figure out the rationale of having three deputy chief ministers, all of whom are way down the party hierarchy. One of them, Laxman Savadi did not even win in the previous Assembly election. On top of it, he had been one of the two ministers in the previous BJP dispensation, allegedly caught watching porn in the Assembly. He had to quit.
Reports say senior legislators like CT Ravi plan to reject their portfolios and resign from the ministry. Ravi and another unhappy senior R Ashok on Monday (August 26) evening reportedly refused to accept official cars allotted to them. Another legislator Sriramulu who was expecting the post of deputy chief minister is reportedly upset too. Some of these newly sworn-in ministers visited Yediyurappa’s residence early on Tuesday (August 27), a day after the announcement of the portfolios.
Snubbed by high command
As for Yediyurappa, who is 76 (over the BJP’s retirement age of 75) and has seemingly been reluctantly accommodated in the position of chief minister, the high command comprising Amit Shah, Narendra Modi and JP Nadda, has treated him with scant respect. He had to return from Delhi at least twice without being given the appointment to meet any of the top three.
The chief minister was apparently so upset that he threatened to quit. Finally Amit Shah spoke to him on telephone and told him to return to Bangalore and manage issues there, and not keep coming back to Delhi.
Now that the portfolios are out, one full month after the chief minister was sworn in, it is clear that Yediyurappa was trying to renegotiate with Amit Shah and co on the choice of ministries and appointment of ministers. And, in this endeavour, the veteran BJP politician was shown his place. Clearly, the situation now is unlike that in 2008, when Yediyurappa ruled the roost and was considered a local supremo.
While BJP legislators including people like KS Eshwarappa and R Ashok have been given so-called lightweight portfolios, some plum posts like finance and agriculture have not been allotted. These are with the chief minister and reserved for the rebel legislators from the Congress and the JD (Secular) who helped topple the previous coalition government.
The rebel legislators are awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court to their appeal against being disqualified under the anti-defection act. Try as they might, the apex court has so far not accommodated their plea to be heard urgently. So their fate hangs in the balance.
Each step the BJP has taken in Karnataka has been riddled with controversy. Sulia legislator S Angara who was among those revolting against not being accommodated in the ministry is apparently planning a delegation to the party high command in Delhi. According to reports, the district and level BJP functionaries in Sulia have resigned in his support and will be part of the delegation.
The other big surprise, or rather shock, for the party was the appointment of Nalin Kumar Kateel as state BJP president overriding favourite contenders for the position like Yediyurappa’s aide Arvind Limbavali. He has not even been chosen as minister.
What makes the choice of the three deputy chief ministers even more intriguing is that none of these three are from a RSS background. There is widespread speculation over what may have worked in their favour. Symbolically, the party has attempted to present a caste-balanced picture with Govind Karjol, a dalit; Dr CN Ashwathnarayan, a vokkaliga and Laxman Savadi, a lingayat.
According to reports, the three may have played a key role in the revolt of Congress-JD (S) legislators leading to the fall of the previous government, and have been rewarded for their effort.
For a party that is battling negative optics in the manner it came to power in Karnataka by aiding defections, the makeup of the new ministry, the treatment meted to Yediyurappa and now the choice of portfolios is only going to make matters worse. Unless the moves are deliberate with a view to unseating the old guard and replacing them with new faces. How successful will that be is another story.
Given the politicking in the state BJP and uncertainty around the new government complicated by the uncertain status of the 15 legislators from the previous coalition, former chief minister Siddaramaiah has already predicted that the Yediyurappa government will not last more than a year.
Ultimately, the intrigue and intense politicking within the BJP is bound to negatively impact the administration especially at a time when the state is reeling with floods and drought, both needing urgent attention. As for the people affected, sadly, they will have no choice but to fend for themselves.