Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has again announced an expansion of his cabinet — fourth time in 11 months — that has been pending since last December.
According to sources in the chief minister’s office, the expansion will be announced either on 20 December or on 22 December.
The CM’s cabinet expansion plans, announced after the December bypoll, have hit a stumbling block, with the BJP high command either asking him to wait or by denying him appointments to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He has been to Delhi three times this year, but had to return dispirited.
On two occasions, the chief minister was asked by the party’s central leadership to wait till it gave him the green signal as central leaders were busy with assembly and Rajya Sabha elections in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The other times, he was unable to get appointments with Shah. The chief minister has been denied appointments to meet Shah at least six times earlier.
A senior BJP functionary told ThePrint: “The process has been long delayed and the CM has made it clear to the BJP leaders in Delhi that if it is delayed any more it would lead to a lot of discontent and could prove counterproductive.”
BJP sources said senior party leaders in Karnataka and Delhi have not been able to come to a consensus yet on the names to be inducted or to be asked to step down.
The functionary added that the BJP high command has suggested a rejig rather than inducting the turncoats, who joined the BJP on the promise that they will be made ministers. As of now, there are 7 vacant ministerial berths.
Meanwhile, BJP national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh visited the state Monday to discuss the issue of cabinet expansion with the chief minister.
BJP sources said Santhosh was in the state to convey the party high command’s message to the state leadership about introducing new faces to the cabinet.
Yediyurappa has been under pressure from several fronts, with disgruntled senior BJP MLAs complaining about being sidelined, pressure from turncoat MLAs asking to fulfill his promise of making them ministers and the BJP central leadership delaying the process of cabinet expansion, fuelling speculation that he might be replaced as CM.
A month ago, a ‘secret’ meeting in Hubballi in north Karnataka of a group of BJP leaders, who are not known to be Yediyurappa loyalists, had led to speculation that all is not well in the state BJP unit.
It was attended by former CM and current industries minister Jagadish Shettar, BJP state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel, Hukkeri MLA Umesh Katti, his brother Ramesh Katti, BJP MLC Mahantesh Kavatagimath, BJP MP from Koppal, Sanganna Karadi, Arabhavi MLA Balachandra Jarkiholi and former Maski MLA Pratap Gowda Patil.
North Karnataka, dominated by the Lingayat community, has always played a decisive role in BJP’s winning prospects in state elections. Lingayat forms 17 per cent of the state electorate, and CM Yediyurappa belongs to this community.
CM loyalists’ appointments to various boards raise eyebrows
Meanwhile, in the past one week, the CM has made a flurry of appointments, which has upset state leaders as “they were done without consulting the party’s core committee”.
The Yediyurappa administration appointed or nominated 53 people, including MLAs/MLCs, to various boards and corporations, which were seen as an attempt to appease the CM’s loyalists.
State BJP sources told ThePrint a majority of those appointed were Yediyurappa’s and his son B.Y. Vijayendra’s loyalists. They were nominated as chairpersons, directors and ex-officio members of different boards and corporations.
Three MLAs, S.R. Vishwanath (Yelahanka), B.C. Nagesh (Tiptur) and Duryodhan Aihole (Raibag), have been appointed to three boards.
But what got senior BJP leaders talking was the appointment of party leader M. Rudresh, known to be close to Yediyurappa. Rudresh has been made the chairman of Karnataka Rural Infrastructure Development Limited, despite a probe recommended against him by a House committee in the controversial NICE corridor project.
A relative of the CM, former Kundgol MLA Siddanagouda Ishwaragouda Chikkanagoudra has been made the new chief of the Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation.
“Many of the decisions were made by the CM as it is his discretion, but B.Y. Vijayendra, his son, had also recommended a few names and they have been nominated as well. Many are upset as the party’s core committee was not consulted before this decision was made,” said a senior BJP MLA on condition of anonymity.
“Don’t ever underestimate Yediyurappa capabilities. If he puts his mind to it, he will ensure that he gets what he wants. Right now, he is taking decisions with caution as he wants to keep everybody happy in the state as well as in the Centre,” he added.
Why the hurry, says Congress
Leader of the Opposition and former CM Siddaramaiah questioned the rush behind the appointments.
“Why the hurry? Is he on his way out that he is doling out appointments to his men?” said Siddaramaiah.
He had earlier claimed that the BJP high command has been contemplating to replace Yediyurappa.
Asked about Siddaramaiah’s claim, BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi dismissed it as rumours. “There will be no leadership change as of now,” he told ThePrint.