Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Wednesday (January 29) said he would leave for New Delhi on Friday, (January 30) to discuss the much-awaited ministry expansion with the BJP high command and expressed confidence that the exercise would be completed in a couple of days. He also indicated the possibility of a cabinet rejig and noted that the call will be taken by the party leadership.
Speaking to reporters in Belagavi, he said that in the backdrop of ongoing talk in the state that the exercise was getting delayed, he would leave for Delhi tomorrow and meet the party national president J P Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and try to expand the ministry as soon as possible in two or three days. To a question on reports that the expansion exercise was scheduled for January 31, he said “I’m going to Delhi tomorrow.
If possible, tomorrow or within two days (it will be done), but I will go tomorrow and get it (list of Ministers) cleared. “Yediyurappa has been anxiously waiting for the high command’s nod to expand his ministry amid intense lobbying by the aspirants. Opposition parties also have been critical of BJP and Yediyurappa over the delay in cabinet expansion, alleging that he was weak and that the administration had collapsed.
As the chief minister has already made it clear that 11 of the disqualified JDS-Congress MLAs who got re-elected in the bypolls on BJP tickets will be made ministers, lobbying has been on in the party for the remaining ministerial berths. Currently, there are 18 ministers including the chief minister in the cabinet that has a sanctioned strength of 34.
Sixteen are vacant. To a question, Yediyurappa said “those who have come with us (BJP) in Belagavi district and have won the bypolls, they will all become ministers and Umesh Katti (eight-time MLA) will also become a minister.
“Let’s see if Delhi leaders desire to drop one or two (from Ministry), I’m not sure… let’s see what all happens in Delhi during discussions with the high command,” he added.
Belagavi district, with two Ministers-Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi and Minister for Women and Child Welfare Shashikala Jolle- may get the lion’s share in the expansion. With the addition of three defectors who won on BJP tickets in the bypolls — Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Mahesh Kumthalli (Athani) and Srimanth Patil (Kagwad) and senior party legislator Katti (Hukkeri), the district’s tally will increase to six.
The chief minister, however, ruled out creating any more posts of Deputy Chief Minister and said that three DCMs who are currently there will continue. “currently three are DCMs (Laxman Savadi, C N Ashwathnarayan, Govind Karjol). They will continue and I will not make anyone else Deputy Chief Minister,” he said.
Amid talks that at least one more DCM post may be created, Health Minister Sriramulu and his supporters have openly expressed a desire for the post. Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi, who played an instrumental role in the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government and paved the way for BJP to come to power, is also seen as a contender for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post.
The cabinet expansion will not be an easy task for Yediyurappa as he has to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators as promised and also make a place for the old guard, upset at being “neglected” in the first round of the induction exercise. He also has to give adequate representation to various castes and regions in his cabinet and deal with allocation of key portfolios.
The cabinet already has eight Lingayats, including the chief minister, three Vokkaligas, three from Scheduled Caste, two OBCs, one Scheduled Tribe and a Brahmin. Among the winners likely be inducted are three Lingayats, four Vokkaligas and one Kuruba, which will increase the number of Lingayats to 12 (including Umesh Katti) and Vokkaligas to seven.
Region-wise, Bengaluru Urban, with four ministers, and Belagaviand Shivamogga, with two each, have a larger share in the Ministry. With the induction of the newly elected, Bengaluru will get three more ministers and Belagavi four (along with Katti), which may trigger criticism of regional imbalance in the Ministry.
Despite Yediyurappa categorically ruling out induction of defected candidates who were defeated in the bypoll, demands for A H Vishwanath (Hunsur) to be made Minister and disqualified legislator R Shankar who was not given a ticket to contest bypolls, but promised a ministerial post, openly expressing his ministerial aspirations, has added to the Chief Minister’s worries.