Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa is set to finally expand his cabinet with the induction of 10 MLAs. The ten new ministers to take oath Thursday are all turncoat MLAs, who won the bypolls two months ago.
The ten rebel Congress-JD(S) leaders S.T. Somashekar, Jarkiholi Ramesh Laxmanrao, Anand Singh, K. Sudhakar, B.A. Basavarja, Shivaram Hebbar, B.C. Patil, K. Gopalaiah Narayana Gowda and Shrimanth Patil had won the December bypolls on a BJP ticket.
Nearly a week after announcing that he will add 13 ministers to his cabinet, Yediyurappa wrote to Governor Vajubhai Vala Wednesday to hold the swearing-in ceremony for only 10.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Yediyurappa said, “Following my discussion with the party president and other leaders in Delhi, it has been decided to induct only 10 as ministers on Thursday.”
His move came after convincing the senior BJP leadership of the need to include the rebel MLAs, according to sources in the party.
At least three senior BJP MLAs — including Umesh Katti and C.P. Yogeshwar — were hopeful of being inducted. They have now been promised ministerial berths in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle in July, said the sources.
Yediyurappa had been quite persistent with the newly-appointed BJP president, J.P. Nadda, on inducting at least 10 out of the 11 turncoat MLAs who won the elections as “he had given his word”, the sources said, adding Yediyurappa’s assurance that he would be able to keep his flock together prevailed after many attempts since December and he was given the green signal.
The turncoats had been pressuring Yediyurappa for ministerial positions even as they ensured that they don’t criticise the CM or the BJP while waiting.
With the induction of the 10 new ministers, Yediyurappa’s cabinet will have a total of 27 ministers excluding the CM.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa hasn’t found it easy to run his cabinet since he came to power in July last year, walking a tightrope to keep his government safe.
The CM had to ensure that the rebel MLAs who switched from Congress and JD(S) do not desert him as the go-ahead from the BJP central leadership to induct them as ministers kept getting delayed.
Yediyurappa even ran the government for 22 days as a “one man cabinet”. His first cabinet expansion came in August after he was given the clearance following several requests.
However, the CM then saw six failed attempts to meet the BJP high command to further expand his cabinet and accommodate the rebel MLAs as “promised”. Each time the appointments were rescheduled due to unavailability of the senior leaders or preparations for Saturday’s Delhi elections.
When Home Minister Amit Shah visited Karnataka on 19 January, Yediyurappa finally managed to discuss his plans of cabinet expansion. Shah is said to have advised the Karnataka CM not to fall into the trap of appeasing the defectors and sidelining the trusted guard.
“At that time, it was communicated to the chief minister that only six of the 11 legislators who won their seats in the recently conducted state byelections should be made ministers,” a senior BJP leader had told ThePrint soon after Yediyurappa’s meeting with Shah.
There was also pressure building from several party loyalists who were aspiring for a cabinet berth. Vachananda Swami, who represents the Panchamasali sect of Lingayats, even used a public platform to send out a warning to Yediyurappa saying if Bilgi MLA Murugesh Nirani was not inducted, his entire community would cease to support the CM.
Yediyurappa now seems to have convinced the leadership that the only way to save his government is to appease the rebels while promising upset BJP MLAs a ministerial berth during the cabinet reshuffle later this year.
How Yediyurrapa formed govt
In July last year, B.S. Yediyurappa formed the government on a wafer-thin majority.
He came to power after bringing down the Congress-JD(S) coalition by luring 17 MLAs to support him. While the BJP was the single largest party, it had 104 seats — short of a majority in the 224-seat Karnataka assembly.
He succeeded in getting 16 of 17 rebel Congress and JD(S) leaders to the BJP. After several twists and turns over the fate of the rebel MLAs, the BJP got 11 of them to win bypolls held in the state in December.