Bengaluru: Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the BJP national president until Monday, has shot down Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s desire to appoint all Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) defectors as ministers, ThePrint has learnt.
According to party sources, Yediyurappa has been told that he can only make six of them ministers.
Sixteen of 17 rebel leaders of the Congress and the JD(S) had joined the BJP last year, bringing down the fragile coalition administration stitched together by the rivals in 2018. Thirteen of them were nominated in the bypolls to 15 constituencies held last December.
Of the BJP’s 12 wins in these elections, 11 were secured by the defectors.
Yediyurappa, who is believed to have masterminded their defection to return to power in the state, had reportedly promised a ministerial berth to each of them.
After six failed attempts to meet Shah in this regard since December, Yediyurappa finally met him Saturday, when the home minister was in Karnataka.
During a meeting that lasted half an hour, Shah is said to have advised Yediyurappa not to “fall into the trap of appeasing the defectors and sidelining the trusted guard”.
“It was communicated to the chief minister that only six of the 11 legislators… can be made ministers,” a senior BJP leader said.
A second senior BJP functionary said Shah told Yediyurappa to strike a balance between the defectors and party loyalists, lest the latter revolt.
“Shah has said that if those who have been loyal to the party are not given their due, it would lead to a possible mutiny… which will be difficult to quell,” the BJP leader added.
Reports of the BJP national brass’ refusal to honour Yediyurappa’s commitment come even as state leaders suggest that a final decision is yet to be taken.
Speaking to the media at the BJP’s Karnataka headquarters in Bengaluru Sunday, senior leader K.S. Eshwarappa said Yediyurappa and the party will never let down those who helped bring them to power.
Leaders from the Yediyurappa camp claimed a decision in the matter will be taken once the chief minister returns from the Swiss resort town of Davos, where he is representing Karnataka at the World Economic Forum.
“It may take time as J.P. Nadda has just taken over as the new president. Shahji will have to discuss it with him, and Yediyurappa will also have to go to Delhi to finalise the list,” a leader said.
Currently, there are 18 members in the Karnataka cabinet, including Yediyurappa, and 16 vacancies.
‘We will see what happens’
Political analyst Harish Ramaswamy said Shah’s suggestion to Yediyurappa was a practical one.
“It was wrong of the state BJP to have promised all of them posts. Just because they supported the government does not mean that they will all be ministers,” he said.
“This has also come as a boon to Yediyurappa as he can pass on the responsibility of this decision on the high command.”
The uncertainty over their fate is said to have left several of the defectors on edge. However, they are unwilling to comment until the decision is finalised.
“We will see what happens… let the decision be made,” said A.H. Vishwanath, who left the JD(S) to join the BJP, when asked about the road ahead for the defectors.