In his teary farewell speech on July 26, BS Yediyurappa (BSY) slammed the Central leadership for causing a delay in the cabinet expansion when he took charge as the chief minister back in 2019. Believe it or not, it took almost a month to form the cabinet. From portfolio allocation to ticket distribution to seeking funds for relief operations, Yediyurappa was made to wait for the high command’s approval.
Cut to July/August 2021, the story is the same with new Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai flying to New Delhi with a list and demands.
Thanks to the BJP high command’s approach in meddling with state affairs, chief ministers are made to wait for approval on Cabinet portfolios.
Bommai too, like Yediyurappa, took charge as CM amid the state facing severe floods in North Karnataka. Like his predecessor, Bommai too is forced to visit flood-hit areas alone, making trips to Delhi to meet central leaders on cabinet formation and handling the lobby of MLAs vying for ministership. Worse, he has to mollify disgruntled elements in the party.
Bommai, who took charge as CM on July 28, indicated on Thursday that it could take time for the cabinet formation. The state legislators expect it to be sealed not before August 10.
To have stability in a minority government, Yediyurappa promised cabinet berths to the rebel MLAs who jumped ship and helped the party. But the question now is: Will Bommai accommodate them and if not, will it lead to instability?
While CN Ashwath Narayan (Vokkaliga) and Laxman Savadi (Ganiga- Lingayat sub-caste), who served as deputy CMs in the past, are lobbying hard to retain their posts, many others too have started throwing their hats to the ring.
Bommai has a lot on the platter. Apart from having to balance the caste equation, he also has to placate senior leaders like Jagadish Shettar (former chief minister), R Ashoka and KS Eshwarappa (former deputy chief ministers). MLAs like Govind Karjol, Murugesh Nirani, V Somanna are in the race for ministerial posts.
Besides, there could be demands from Yediyurappa himself to keep the Lingayat community happy though the former chief minister categorically said he would not interfere in Bommai’s scheme of things.
Meanwhile, Shettar said, with a tinge of discontent, “I am a senior member and a former chief minister. My conscience doesn’t allow me to join the Cabinet.”
Shettar’s statement comes against the backdrop of a purported audio clip of state party president Nalin Kumar Kateel going viral a few days ago where it was heard saying “KS Eshwarappa and Shettar’s team would be ousted” and a new team formed.
Bommai, who shares a personal rapport with Shettar, told reporters that he would meet the latter personally and discuss it with the leadership.
But unlike Shettar, Eshwarappa said he was ready to be either a deputy chief minister or a minister in the Bommai cabinet.
RSS leaders have reportedly told BJP leaders not to induct “controversial” legislators who brought court injunction against the media for defamatory news. They opined that if “tainted” legislators were inducted, it would send the wrong message and would not resonate well when the party faces elections in 2023.
BJP MLA and Yediyurappa’s aide MP Renukacharya said it was not prudent to compare the situation when Yediyurappa took over as CM. “Legislators are working on the ground and this time the central leaders will try to sort things earlier,” he told The Federal.
Bommai will have additional pressure from Panchamasali Lingayat seers who have vowed to intensify their agitation, seeking reservation under 2A category from August. The reservation issue plagued Yediyurappa a year later after he became the CM, but for Bommai, it’s right at his doorstep.
It’s baptism by fire, for sure.