Even before the ink dried on the register signed by the 17 newly sworn-in ministers of the Yediyurappa government, the BJP in Karnataka witnessed widespread dissent and resentment by legislators who could not make it to the ministry.
Earlier on Tuesday (August 20), as the names of the new ministers to be inducted were made public, a large number of disappointed aspirants decided to boycott the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru.
The ministry formation itself had come almost a month after Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was sworn in on July 26. The government was termed an “one-man show” and criticised by the opposition for the delay in the formation of council of ministers.
The state, meanwhile, suffered severe drought followed by massive floods and the chief minister was stretched travelling across the state trying to bring succour to victims.
Congratulations to the newly inducted cabinet ministers. Together, let us work towards unveiling a new era of development, growth and prosperity in line with the aspirations of the people of Karnataka and the vision of PM @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/mWxBpNiAdN
— B.S. Yediyurappa (@BSYBJP) August 20, 2019
Amidst speculation that the state leadership was concerned over possible revolt among those who would be denied a ministerial berth, Yediyurappa took the help of the party high command to select the ministers.
On Tuesday, the party’s worst fears came true with a cross section of legislators expressing dissension and anger at being left out.
Among those who were not present at the swearing-in ceremony included prominent legislators like JH Thippareddy, Balachandra Jharkiholi, Murugesh Nirani, Renukacharya, CP Yogeshwar, Basavanagouda Patil Yatnal, Umesh Katti and Gulihatti Shekhar. Almost all of them were former ministers and were expecting to be part of this ministry.
Thippareddy made his unhappiness public saying that there were others like him who were upset at being kept out of the ministry. He told reporters that they were in touch with each other over phone and were planning a meeting shortly to express their unhappiness to the chief minister and the party high command in Delhi.
Thippareddy’s supporters in the Chitradurga constituency organised protests in the centre of the town and set on flames tyres and buntings to express their anger.
One legislator, Abhay Patil, who was present at the ceremony, couldn’t control himself and told reporters at the venue itself that probably the party did not consider him capable of being a minister. He conceded that he was looking forward to being a minister.
Another unhappy legislator, Gulihatti Shekhar, told a television channel how he helped the BJP form government in 2008 as an independent and that he now regrets joining the party. “I would have been far better off as an independent,” he said.
Six-time legislator S Angara told the media that he was promised a ministry earlier when Sadananda Gowda was the chief minister and was expecting to be chosen this time. “If loyalists and committed people like me do not get a chance, what can I say?” he rued.
The dissension does not augur well for the state BJP which has been touting its credentials as being far better than the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition.
Many of its legislators had taunted the coalition on their dissension promising that the BJP would be far better. But the revolt on Tuesday has shown that politics in Karnataka will continue to be plagued by instability and that the BJP legislators are not very different when compared to those of the Congress-JDS coalition.
The ministry formation also comes in the backdrop of the disqualification of 15 Congress-JDS legislators. These MLAs have appealed to the Supreme Court against the disqualification. The verdict of the apex court will add to the uncertainty surrounding the status of the MLAs and whether they will be allowed to be inducted as ministers.
It may be recalled that the Yediyurappa came to power on July 23 amid controversial circumstances with allegations that the party engineered defections in the coalition to be able to muster an ad hoc majority.
The strength of the party is 105 in a House of 207 (full strength is 224 of which 17 resigned. Fifteen of them were later disqualified under the Anti-Defection Act). The strength of the coalition is 100.
Earlier, Yediyurappa inducted prominent faces of the party in the state, including former state president KS Eshwarappa, Suresh Kumar, R Ashok and 14 others.
The dissension comes after Chief Minister Yediyurappa expanded his ministry on Tuesday by inducting 17 ministers in the first phase. This was the first-ever expansion of Yediyurappa’s ministry after he assumed office on July 26 and proved his governments majority on the floor of the Assembly on July 29.
Having run the government with a “one-man cabinet” for over 20 days, the chief minister had on Saturday managed to get the nod from BJP national president Amit Shah to undertake the exercise on August 20.