‘Rebels’ lose Karnataka bypolls, but win CM’s assurance for ministerial berths

A case has been withdrawn against Yediyurappa’s political secretary Renukacharya and his supporters for “illegal assembly” outside the residence of a defeated Congress candidate in Honnali. Photo: PTI

Even as the newly-elected members of the Karnataka legislative assembly resort to hectic lobbying for cabinet berths, two rebels MLAs of the JD(S) who lost the bypolls despite contesting on BJP tickets, are keeping Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on tenterhooks by demanding ministerial berths.

The BJP swept the recent by-elections in Karnataka, winning 12 of the 15 seats that went to polls. Eleven of the 13 disqualified MLAs who contested the bypolls on BJP ticket won the elections.

Lateral entry?

But, despite losing the elections, Hunsur’s candidate AH Vishwanath and Hosakote candidate MTB Nagaraj, have been adamant on their demand for cabinet berths. To exert pressure on the chief minister, they recently held a meeting demanding that they should not be ignored during the allocation of portfolios.

While their demands have been opposed by a section of BJP leaders in the state, the chief minister has assured the duo that they would be nominated to the Legislative Council and he will clear way for their induction into the ministry. Though there is no vacancy in the council, a senior BJP leader said Yediyurappa might ask a sitting council member to resign to make way for these candidates.

In Hunsur, Vishwanath who defected from the JD(S) lost to Congress candidate HP Manjunath by a margin of nearly 40,000 votes. In Hosakote, Nagaraj lost to independent candidate Sharath Bachegowda, the son of BJP MP BN Bache Gowda.

Also read: BJP sweeps Karnataka bypolls, top Congress leaders quit

But, not everyone supports Yediyurappa’s decision. Several party leaders are tight-lipped on the matter. KS Eshwarappa, a former minister and Kuruba leader who ahead of the bypolls had said that only winners will get ministerial berths and losers will have to work as BJP cadres, has turned silent after the rebel MLAs took up the matter with Yediyappa.

After being asked by the CM to abstain from making ‘hurtful’ comments against the rebel MLAs, Eshwarappa said, “I am not one of the deputy chief minister post aspirants. The party has won the battle and at this crucial time, we cannot demand anything. We will take what we get.”

Challenges before Yediyurappa

When the cabinet expansion takes place, the chief minister may also induct R Shankar, the disqualified independent MLA from Ranebennur who was not given a BJP ticket in the bypolls. He too was promised a MLC seat.

Besides demanding ministerial posts, the rebel MLAs have also sought stern action against Bache Gowda for silently campaigning for his son, Sharath, who was responsible for Nagaraj’s defeat. Vishwanath too asked the party to suspend those who worked against his candidature.

Yediyurappa said he has already brought it to the notice of the high command and they will decide on taking action against Gowda.

Dissidence within the party was a challenge for Yediyurappa in the initial days of government formation. The chief minister took 25 days to form his partial cabinet with 17 ministers in August.

Also read: Karnataka bypoll results a do-or-die for BJP in South India

Party seniors like KS Eshwarppa, CT Ravi, R Ashoka, B Sriramulu, Umesh Katti and Basavaraj Yatnal were upset with the portfolio allocation as the plum posts had gone to juniors in the party. Katti and Eshwarappa have put forth their demand to suitably accommodate them based their experience and contribution to the party.

Yediyurappa, the lingayat strongman who once enjoyed full power within the party, now struggles to finds a balance. He not only has to deliver a stable government, but also has to douse the fire within the party to keep both the old guard and the new entrants satisfied.

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