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3-min read

Desperate to Save Sinking Karnataka Boat, JDS-Cong May Bank on 'Generous' Ministers to Help it Stay Afloat

The current cabinet may see at least three or possibly four ministers resign from the Council of Ministers, to make way for disgruntled MLAs who have been threatening to quit the Assembly.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:May 28, 2019, 4:06 PM IST

Bengaluru: The JDS-Congress coalition government in Karnataka is likely to reshuffle the cabinet this week, in a bid to placate MLAs who have been approached by the Opposition BJP with ministerial berths to defect to the saffron party.

The current cabinet may see at least three or possibly four ministers resign from the Council of Ministers, to make way for disgruntled MLAs who have been threatening to quit the Assembly as they have been kept away from ministerial roles. If these MLAs quit, the tally required for a majority for the ruling party in the Assembly will drop, leaving the field open for the BJP to take a shot at coming to power.

The BJP, with 105 MLAs in the 224-member Assembly, has been trying its best to destabilise the Congress-JDS coalition ever since the alliance got the required numbers and formed government in May 2018. A year since, many MLAs, specially in the Congress, are angry with being kept out of the Cabinet and want to assert themselves more strongly within the coalition now.

Besides, the Congress has 79 MLAs in the Assembly, more than double the JDS' tally of 37 MLAs — so when the CM's chair and about ten ministers were given to the JDS, the Congress MLAs have all along felt that the party has ceded too much power to the lesser ally.

Damage-control exercises are beginning after two influential Congress MLAs Ramesh Jharkiholi and K Sudhakar were seen openly meeting BJP leaders like BS Yeddyurappa in what was dismissed as 'co-incidental' meetings. Both JDS and Congress have decided that they would do whatever is required to keep their flock and their government intact.

Even as results came with shocking defeats for both parties across Karnataka on May 23, the one aim in the minds of the top-brass of both parties was to save this government, come what may.

In all probability, it will be the JDS ministers who will be asked to step down to allow more Congress ministers in the government. Many in the JDS like DC Thammanna and CS Puttaraju — both ministers from the Mandya region — have already said they would willingly step down if asked to. There is already one vacancy after the death of CS Shivalli about two months back.

A crucial Congress Legislature Party meeting convened on Wednesday will take a call on who will be asked to fill the Cabinet, besides some stock-taking on what led to the party's dismal performance in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The party is also upset with JDS MLAs like Srinivas Gowda from Kolar having publicly talked about how he and his party workers worked against the coalition candidate KH Muniyappa of the Congress and ensured his defeat. "It wasn't that we wanted to support the BJP. But we have been upset with Muniyappa so we didn't support him," Gowda was heard telling party men in his hometown.

Congress minister Zameer Ahmed Khan, on the way out after a Cabinet meeting on Monday, said only BJP was spreading rumours of Congress MLAs quitting. "I know Ramesh Jharkiholi is upset after being dropped from the Cabinet a few months ago, but where will he go. He has Congress in his blood, will he go to a communal party?"

Khan said he too would be willing to resign if the party gives such a diktat. "For me party is important. If a direction comes, I am also willing to resign. We are all soldiers of the party. It is because of the party that we are here. I'm willing to resign if they ask me to, but there has been no such discussion so far," he told News18.

Home minister MB Patil, also of the Congress, did not comment on imminent resignations, merely saying, "This government will last four (more) years. Nobody can disturb it."

Asked to comment on the developments, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy told mediapersons to "wait for two or three days," while his Deputy G Parameshwara said, "If any decision is taken, you will all be informed."

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