Karnataka: Congress forms an inclusive Cabinet, focus on community diversity

The 10-member cabinet, which was formed on Saturday, takes into consideration major castes and communities of the state, including Vokkaligas and Lingayats

Karnataka grant
Rahul Gandhi with newly sworn-in Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah and DCM DK Shivakumar on Saturday | Pic: Twitter/KC Venugopal

After a fiercely contested battle against the BJP and its national leadership, the Congress party emerged victorious with a decisive majority in the May 10 Karnataka Assembly elections. As the party proceeds to form the government under the leadership of Siddaramaiah, there is a clear indication of a significant emphasis on inclusiveness.

In the formation of the new Cabinet on Saturday (May 20), careful consideration has been being given to the major castes and communities of the state, as well as the importance of various regions that have a larger number of elected MLAs.

On Saturday, Siddaramaiah took oath as the 24th Chief Minister of the state, signalling a commitment to collaboration within the government. He has displayed a willingness to work together with party leadership and has also acknowledged the significance of communities that played a pivotal role in the party’s victory this time around.

Behind the ‘collective leadership’ mantra

For Siddaramaiah, this marks his second term as Chief Minister. It was a one-man cabinet when he took charge as the CM in May 2013. During that time, he introduced the “Anna Bhagya” scheme for below poverty line (BPL) communities.  However, this time, it is not as easy for him to exhibit a one-man show as it was in 2013.

There were various factors that worked for Congress this time and helped it win the elections, including the timely support from Mallikarjuna Kharge, the Karnataka-based AICC president and prominent Dalit leader. Additionally, former AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (a nationwide campaign to unite India), the organizing skills of DK Shivakumar, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief, contributed to the party’s success.

Also read: Karnataka: Siddaramaiah sworn in as CM; top Oppn leaders in attendance

Above all, it was Siddaramaiah’s mass leadership and his direct confrontation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah that resonated with the people. His efforts to expose corruption and other scandals, as well as his outreach initiatives, received support from all Congress leaders, which played a crucial role in the party’s triumph.

Even though the Congress was chanting the mantra of ‘collective leadership’, it was evident that the main burden of leadership fell upon Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. Thus, it became widely known that the duo were strong contenders for the CM position. This became even more apparent after the Congress achieved victory, leaving the party’s high command with a challenging task of selecting a suitable CM candidate.

Ultimately, the party was compelled to make Siddaramaiah CM again as per the highest number of votes he garnered from the newly elected MLAs. In an effort to promote ‘collective leadership’ within the party and to prepare for the upcoming 2024 parliamentary elections, DKS was made the Deputy CM.

Congress demonstrated the sign of ‘inclusive leadership’ this time, as the active involvement of all leaders has been evident at every step. Kharge himself was deeply involved in the process, from the election campaign to the government formation. Siddaramaiah led from the front in tackling the high-profile leaders of the BJP, effectively countering their aggressive attacks. The efforts were complemented by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and the contributions of other party leaders.

The new Cabinet

Now, Congress has shown inclusiveness in the formation of the government as well. The credit for this goes to Kharge, who was particular about emphasizing the importance of maintaining ‘collective leadership’ to CM nominee Siddaramaiah and deputy CM nominee Shivakumar, urging them to prioritise the interests of the party over any personal issues.

He consulted with Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, as well as the party’s General Secretaries and other leaders. As a result, eight senior MLAs were selected as the first batch of ministers, after convincing Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar to take into consideration the leaders from both factions.

The 10-member Cabinet, which was formed on Saturday, comprises Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar alongside other ministers, including Dr. G Parameshwara, KH Muniyappa, KJ George, MB Patil, Satish Jarakiholi, Priyank Kharge, Ramalinga Reddy, and BZ Zamir Ahmed Khan. The selection of ministers clearly indicates that Congress made an effort to represent the major communities that supported the party in achieving a resounding majority.

The Congress has shown its commitment to the representation of the ‘AHINDA’ (Minorities, Backward Class, Dalits) by considering leaders from these communities. Siddaramaiah, a prominent AHINDA leader, represents the Backward Class, while Dr G Parameshwara and Priyank Kharge (both right-Dalit) belong to the Scheduled Caste community, and KH Muniyappa represents the Left Dalit community. Satish Jarakiholi hails from the Scheduled Tribe community. KJ George and Zameer Ahmed Khan represent the Christian and Muslim community, respectively.

Also read: Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has become puppet of Congress high command: BJP

At the same time, the cabinet has given importance to the Lingayats (there are 36 MLAs from the community) and the Vokkaligas, who helped the party get more vote shares in Old Mysuru and North Karnataka region. Shivakumar and Ramalinga Reddy hail from the Vokkaliga community (even Reddys of Bengaluru are considered as Vokkaligas) while MB Patil represents the Lingayat community.

Thus, the composition of the cabinet reflects a commendable approach to social engineering, encompassing various sections of society, including major communities such as Lingayats, Vokkaligas, OBCs, SC/STs, and the minorities. The forthcoming selection of ministers, expected within a week, will likely follow a similar social engineering framework, with Siddaramaiah, DKS, and Kharge taking into account these factors while expanding the cabinet.

The first cabinet, however, reflects a lack of emphasis on regional representation. Siddaramaiah and DKS from Old Mysuru; Jeorge, Ramalinga Reddy, Zameer, and Muniyappa from greater Bengaluru; Jarakiholi from Kittur Karnataka (Mumbai Karnataka) while MB Patil and Priyank Kharge from Kalyana Karnataka (Hyderabad Karnataka). However, there is no representation for Coastal Karnataka, Central Karnataka, and the Malnad region.

A senior leader told The Federal that while expanding the cabinet, all sectors, including communities, marginalized backward classes, and regions, will be duly considered, addressing the need for comprehensive representation.