Bengaluru: The BJP government in Karnataka, which is currently functioning with three deputy chief ministers, could soon completely do away with the post — at least for this term.
With the demand to appoint more deputy CMs rising, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa is likely to announce that he will scrap the post altogether, ThePrint has learnt.
This will be in line with the advice of the BJP central leadership, which is averse to creation of more deputy CM posts, sources in the party told ThePrint.
The BJP leadership has reportedly advised the state unit to scrap the post and make all three current deputy CMs cabinet ministers led by Yediyurappa, the sources said, adding the decision could be announced before the cabinet reshuffle in January 2020.
“The post of a deputy chief minister will be done away with. This is the only way the CM sees a solution to the growing competition among aspirants for the posts and the unnecessary lobbying taking place with the state and the central high commands,” said a source in the Yediyurappa government.
Decision aims to ensure stability of Yediyurappa govt
While the five-month-old BJP government in Karnataka has three deputy chief ministers — Govind Karjol, C.N. Ashwath Narayan and Laxman Savadi — it has been under tremendous pressure from some senior leaders in the party who too want to be made deputy CMs.
More such demands started coming in after the recent by-elections, which gave the BJP 12 new MLAs — most of them rebels from the Congress and JD(S) who had defected to the party causing the fall of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government in July 2019.
Yediyurappa had to take the decision to scrap the deputy CM post as the situation could affect the stability of his government, said the sources.
After coming to power, the BJP government in Karnataka had taken an unprecedented move in the state’s political history by appointing three deputy CMs. This was done to strike a caste balance. Yediyurappa had made the appointments on the recommendation of the BJP high command, or it could have led to an internal strife.
However, more MLAs soon started harbouring such aspirations.
Also read: Disconnected from voters & rudderless — Karnataka Congress hurtles from one crisis to next
After the BJP won 12 out of the 15 seats in the bypolls, the number of aspirants for the post of deputy CMs increased exponentially. A few had even reached out to the BJP’s central command urging the senior leaders in Delhi to recommend their names.
There was much heartburn among senior leaders in the party as they began to feel slighted, said a senior BJP leader.
“There is more unrest among the senior BJP state leaders as now there are so many more aspirants. The state leadership is in a bind as to who they should choose as ministers or whether creating more DCM posts would resolve the issue,” said the leader, who did not wish to be named.
According to party insiders, there are several senior leaders vying for the post. They include BJP MLA from Gokak Ramesh Jarkiholi, a Valmiki community leader who defected from the Congress, Molakalmuru MLA B. Sriramulu (also belonging to the Valmiki community), BJP’s senior Kuruba leader K.S. Eshwarappa, former CM Jagdish Shettar (a Lingayat leader) and former home minister R. Ashok, who represents the Vokkaliga community.
A few BJP leaders such as Honnali MLA M.P. Renukacharya and MLC Lahar Singh Siroya have been, however, recommending that the posts of deputy CM be completely scrapped since it was causing unnecessary friction within the party.
Demand for 5 deputy CMs
Meanwhile, a section of the BJP has also suggested that two more slots be created to accommodate two newly-elected legislators as deputy chief ministers.
If Yediyurappa heeded the advice, it would take the tally to five, matching the number in the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
The debate to create the new posts began after supporters of long-time aspirant B. Sriramulu started lobbying with the state and central leadership to make him a deputy CM, saying he is a strong leader from the Valmiki community.
Sriramulu’s close associate and Ballari MLA Somashekhar Reddy told ThePrint it was “the demand of the people” to see him as a deputy CM.
Renukacharya, after a meeting with state BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel last week, communicated that the confusion could pose problems for the party and the central leadership should be apprised of the situation.
Responding to media queries in this regard, Kateel said in Chitradurga, “It is Yediyurappa who would take a call on these matters. Everyone aspires to become a minister, but we will try and ensure that all districts are represented well and justice is done.”
The ball is in Yediyurappa’s court now to convince the high command on who he wants in his cabinet headed for the second round of expansion.
Also read: How this ‘younger Yediyurappa’ helped BJP beat caste calculations to win JD(S) turf