Will K’taka cabinet reshuffle sound the death knell for JD(S)-Cong coalition?

The Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka has been on a shaky ground since its inception due to limited number of MLAs. PTI photo

The much-awaited Karnataka cabinet reshuffle in the Congress-JD(S) coalition government will take place on Friday (June 14). It’s a tough task for the government, considering that it has been planned to pacify rebel Congress and independent MLAs, and quell the anger of senior party leaders who felt ignored by the parties.

If the state government fails to appease senior leaders or existing cabinet ministers, it is likely that some would threaten to quit the party along with their followers (party cadre). If the government fails to satisfy the rebel MLAs, they may quit the party to join the opposition BJP and bring down the government.

Either way, the cabinet reshuffle is a risky one.

The Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka has been on a shaky ground since its inception.

Considering that the government was formed with just five seats above the majority mark in the 224-member Assembly, its desperate need to sustain the majority, encourages some MLAs to turn rebel every now and then.

The government, fearing its collapse due to a possible shift of MLAs to BJP’s camp, had contemplated at giving ministerial berths to a few.

Union minister from Karnataka DV Sadananda Gowda on June 9 said the much-awaited cabinet expansion will lay the foundation for the ruling government’s collapse.

However, with limited ministerial seats and more rebel candidates, it needs to be seen how the government will handle the crisis. Of the 34 cabinet ministers, the Congress and the JD(S) shared 22 and 12 posts respectively. Currently, three posts are vacant – two from the JD(S) and one from the Congress.

The government reiterated that it would not resort to any decision that would upset the existing cabinet members. But All India Congress Committee general secretary K C Venugopal and state Congress leaders may ask a couple of congress ministers to step down to accommodate more rebel MLAs.

Deve Gowda’s New Delhi visit sparked speculations about JD(S) willing to exit the coalition if the Congress do not put its house in order and be accommodative.

Kumaraswamy had met rebel MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, BC Patil, Mahesh Kumathalli and K Sudhakar last month.

The spectacular show by the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls—winning 25 of the 28 seats—gave them confidence that more MLAs will join the party if Chief Minister Kumaraswamy fails to give ministerial berth. It kept the coalition on the edge.

“The state leaders and supervisors stumbled on the party’s internal problems. Despite the party in power, Congress workers lost electoral passion. It is due to lack of communication and coordination between the workers and some Congress ministers,” senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy had said.

Infighting within the Congress, particularly with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah wielding more powers and controlling the Congress, was dragging down the party.

Despite joining hands with the JD(S) and the party agreeing to the JD(S) leading the state, some leaders close to Siddaramaiah campaign for him be to be the chief minister again.

Congress leaders felt the party will erode in the next Assembly elections in the state if it continues to align with JD(S) as bitter rivalry still persisted at the grassroots level.

Also, the JSW land deal, alleged involvement of congress MLA Roshan Baig in multi-crore investment scam, gave a fillip to the BJP to point fingers at the ruling coalition which corrupt and inefficient.

Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa asked the coalition to give up power if it cannot run the government. The party assured it would not topple the government but wait for it to collapse on its own.

Senior Congress leader Sathyan Puthoor, however, said, the coalition will handle the cabinet reshuffle well and they have told senior leaders to cooperate keeping the larger issue of keeping BJP out of power in the state.