Ministerial berths likely for rebel MLAs in Karnataka

Updated 11:45 AM, 13 June, 2019
Kumaraswamy-Siddaramaiah - The Federal
Coalition leaders in Karnataka. File Photo/PTI

While post-poll chaos has grappled the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka, the government is likely to give ministerial berths to its dissenting MLAs in order to stop them from jumping the ship.

Speculations were rife that some of the existing ministers will be asked to quit the state cabinet to accommodate the rebel MLAs. However, the Congress Coordination Committee chief Siddaramaiah on May 28 (Tuesday) reiterated that the government will not reshuffle but only expand the cabinet to fill three vacant posts.

The coalition government do not want to resort to any decision that could upset the existing cabinet members. Ahead of the Congress Legislature Party meeting on May 29, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy met rebel MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, BC Patil, Mahesh Kumathalli and K Sudhakar.

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However, Kumathalli told The Federal that Kumaraswamy and Deputy Chief Minister Parameshwara discussed the drinking water issue in Atani (Belgavi) and not about any offer promising a cabinet berth.

“We discussed the drinking water issue and wanted to sort out issues with Maharashtra on the Koyna dam water sharing. The Chief Minister did not offer any minister berth and I did not press for any,” Kumtahalli said. Another MLA, Sudhakar, too denied that the CM offered them any ministerial position.

All India Congress Committee office-bearers KC Venugopal and Ghulam Nabi Azad are expected to meet Karnataka Congress leaders including Siddaramaiah, G Parameshwara and state party chief Dinesh Gundu Rao among others on Tuesday evening, to discuss on the poll debacle. The JD(S)-Congress in Karnataka combine won only two of the 28 seats in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

Of the three vacancies, one of them was created by the demise of Municipal Administration Minister C.S. Shivalli, whose wife recently won the bypolls. Another ministerial berth remained vacant after BSP MLA N Mahesh resigned as Primary and Secondary Education Minister last year. Another seat is vacant due to the non-filling of the berth since the cabinet formation last year.

The Kumaraswamy government currently has 31 ministers including the Chief Minister. The CM handles 14 portilios, deputy CM four and Congress leader D K Shivakumar handles two ministerial berths.

Having registered a massive win in the Lok Sabha polls — a clear majority at the Centre and 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka — the State BJP is reviving efforts to topple the Kumaraswamy-led JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka using the already identified rebels. And to quell dissent and desperate to save the one-year-old government, the JD(S) has decided to sacrifice its quota of two ministerial berths in favour of Congress.

The coalition partners have been making statements to assure that the government was not in trouble and they were reaching out to the dissenting MLA to sort out the issues. Karnataka Home Minister M B Patil stated that BJP’s efforts to topple the Karnataka government were and will be futile, while addressing reporters.

However, the informal meeting of two Congress legislators Ramesh Jarkiholi and K Sudhakar with senior BJP leader S M Krishna on Sunday put the radar on the ruling coalition.

Riding a countrywide wave led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP swept 25 of the 28 lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. The party was confident that the coalition government will not last beyond June 10. Several BJP leaders, including R Ashoka and Sadananda Gowda, while asking the CM to resign on moral grounds, hinted that the party would not topple the government until the Prime Minister swears in on May 30.

“Once the new government is in place at the Centre, many MLAs will quit Congress and JD(S) to join us. It is ideal that the CM quits on his own. Otherwise, the government will anyway fall, sooner or later,” Sadananda Gowda said.

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