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As Cabinet Inducts 25, Karnataka MLAs See Opportunity to Milk Unsteady Congress-JDS Coalition

Despite the various permutations and combinations over the last 14 days, many MLAs — primarily from the Congress — had supporters hold protests and demonstrations against their exclusion from the Cabinet.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:June 6, 2018, 10:57 PM IST
As Cabinet Inducts 25, Karnataka MLAs See Opportunity to Milk Unsteady Congress-JDS Coalition
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara with newly inducted ministers during the first expansion of the JD(S) and Congress coalition government at Rajbhavan in Bengaluru. (PTI)

Bengaluru: The Karnataka cabinet saw 25 ministers take oath on Wednesday — an exercise that has seen a tight-rope walk by the JD(S) and Congress.

In order to keep its ministerial hopefuls happy, both parties have been scratching their head for 14 days since the alliance came to power.

Despite the various permutations and combinations, many MLAs — primarily from the Congress — had supporters hold protests and demonstrations against their exclusion from the Cabinet.

Even now, all ministry berths haven’t been filled. The JD(S) is holding on to one post and the Congress is still to announce minister for six more.

The Cabinet favours the Vokkaliga (Gowda) community, with as many as nine MLAs from this group getting berths. CM Kumaraswamy’s superstitious elder brother HD Revanna was the first to take oath, at precisely 2:12 pm, the designated ‘auspicious’ time. Revanna has also chosen a Vaastu-compliant room on the third-floor of the Vidhan Souda for himself.

DC Thamanna, the father-in-law of Kumaraswamy’s brother HD Ramesh, also made it to the Cabinet. GT Deve Gowda, the ‘giant killer’ who defeated former chief minister Siddaramaiah in his hometown Chamundeshwari, is another Vokkaliga face in the Cabinet from the JD(S)’ side.

The Congress also has three Vokkaligas — with DK Shivakumar leading the pack from this community. DKShi, known as the trouble-shooter and chief strategist for many a political crisis of the Congress, is likely to land a plum portfolio. He has, after all, played a major role in keeping the MLAs together despite many attempts to poach them from the opposition BJP.

The next big caste bloc is of Lingayats – two each from the JD(S) and Congress. The issue of a separate minority status for Lingayats had been a major campaign issue for more than six months ahead of the election season.

Surprisingly though, prominent Lingayat faces like MB Patil, Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Eshwar Khandrehave been left out. Patil spearheaded the minority status campaign, while Shivashankarappa and Khandre identify themselves as Veerashaiva-Lingayats.

This led to protests, with gram panchayat members in MB Patil’s hometown Vijayapura threatening to resign from their elected posts.

There are three SCs, one ST, four OBCs that complete the Cabinet – these include BSP’s lone MLA N Mahesh and the Independent R Shankar, who had to be included as part of coalition commitments. Mahesh had come dressed in an Ambedkar-like blue suit to the Raj Bhavan to take oath and did so in the name of Buddha, Basava and the celebrated Dalit leader.

As far as regional representation goes, the old Mysore region – traditionally the Vokkaliga belt, where JD(S) has most of its MLAs from – has got the lion-share of ministries. There are nearly a dozen districts that have no ministry whatsoever – Shivamogga for instance, where Congress MLA BK Sangameshwar has already raised a banner of revolt.

Sangameshwar is a Lingayat leader who had been allegedly approached by the BJP ahead of the trust vote on May 19. Reportedly, the Congress had placated him by promising a ministry, so his non-inclusion is bound to cause trouble. The party will likely conduct a small Cabinet expansion post the Jayanagar by-poll that ends on June 13.

The JD(S) also has a long list of senior MLCs, none of whom have found a place in the Cabinet. Basavaraj Horatti has been an elected MLC for over 35 years, while others like BM Farooq and TA Saravana have proved themselves important strategists. With just one Ministry left, the party is bound to leave most of them disappointed.

There is exactly one woman in the Kumaraswamy Cabinet — actor-turned-MLC Jayamala. This comes despite the Congress having other strong female contenders like its women’s wing president Laxmi Hebbalkar and MP KH Muniyappa’s daughter Roopa. The JD(S) does not have to face this issues as it has no woman MLA in its entire assembly and council strength!

Both parties have told their MLAs that they will all be accommodated in the 90-plus government-run Boards and Corporations as chairpersons, even if they don’t make it to the Cabinet.

As far as regional representation goes, south Karnataka has the maximum ministers, while there are several districts that have no representation whatsoever in the Cabinet. Key districts like Bellary has five Congress MLAs from the nine Assembly seats but not a single Minister. Even mining baron Anand Singh, who moved from the BJP to the Congress just before the election, has not been accommodated.

The next tug-of-war for the two parties will be on the portfolio front.

While the Congress-JD(S) have decided which party gets what portfolio, who would get those ministries is a different question altogether.

HD Revanna has demand two plum posts – Public Works Department and the Energy Department. Both get heavy fund allocations in the budget and Revanna justifies his demands claiming he played a major role in the party’s victory in their native Hassan district. He further feels wronged that others from his family, like his wife and son who wanted to give the 2018 elections a shot, were denied nominations by the party.

The JD(S) has driven a hard bargain for itself – they’ve taken the heavy-duty Finance, PWD, Power and Education portfolios for themselves. Other posts in its kitty include Cooperation, Tourism, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Horticulture and Sericulture, Transport, Small Scale Industry, Minor Irrigation and Transport.

Among the 'moneyed' portfolios in the Congress’ basket are Major Irrigation, Bangalore Development, Industry, Agriculture and Revenue. The influential Home department, that wields control over the police department, is also with the Congress.

Urban Development, Health, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Housing, Medical Education, Social Welfare, Forests and Environment, Labour, Mines and Geology, Women and Child Welfare, Food and Civil Supplies, Haj and Minority Affairs, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Science & Technology, Youth and Sports and Kannada Culture, Ports and Inland development are the other Ministries the Congress has to distribute among its Ministers.

One would expect both parties to go the extra mile in placating its many aspirants in every key decision taken over the next five years.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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