Bengaluru: Ahead of cabinet expansion, the attention is usually on probable ministers and those who may not make it to the finishing line. However, Wednesday witnessed a new power centre emerge in Karnataka as hectic parleys were underway at the residence of Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra.
Several aspiring ministers — newly elected MLAs, and even those who didn’t win the recently held by-elections — made a beeline for Vijayendra’s residence in the heart of the city during the day.
All of them perhaps had one question on their minds — is there a place in the sun, or rather, is a cabinet berth assured.
Some of them may also have wanted to remind Vijayendra about their choice of portfolios, and that commitments made to them ahead of their
defection to the saffron camp should be honoured.
(Newly elected BJP MLAs with Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa in Bengaluru on Wednesday.)
Karnataka will see a cabinet expansion of 10 newly elected MLAs, who had defected from the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) to the BJP six months ago and led to fall of the coalition government, following which Yediyurappa became the CM.
While 17 MLAs had quit to facilitate the BJP’s coming to power in what was dubbed as 'Operation Kamala', the strategy to enable defections, 10 of them will be inducted on Thursday. It will be the first cabinet expansion in the six-month-old BJP government.
And, it is Vijayendra, the state general secretary of the BJP Yuva Morcha, who has, of late, established himself as a strategist and key decision-maker in the scheme of things and has become the most sought-after 'leader' in the party circles. Even the party’s state president Nalin Kateel, and organising secretary, the all-powerful BL Santosh, appeared to be falling behind.
Over the last few months, Vijayendra has been calling the shots, be it leading from the front in June last year to woo MLAs of other parties to resign en masse and bring down the previous government, brain-storming on campaigns in the 17 Assembly seats that went for bypolls in December because of these resignations, or more recently, finalising the Cabinet expansion.
Initially, Yediyurappa had said 13 ministers will be sworn in on Thursday — 10 of the defected MLAs and three of the 'original' party veterans.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, the party decided to induct only 10 defected MLAs, while three berths would be kept vacant for now.
Of course, it is being pushed as the diktat of the party high command, but the defecting or 'rebel' MLAs were able to pull off the assurance that even if party veterans will be asked to wait, their own positions in the Cabinet would be unshakeable.
In fact, even a former MLA who was defeated in the by-polls, MTB Nagaraj, met Vijayendra to reiterate that he was among those "whose sacrifice of the MLA seat" helped the BJP come to power in Karnataka and hence, his demands should be met.
He has been wanting to be accommodated in the Cabinet in the first possible opportunity and made a member of the Legislative Council. Nagaraj also wants to ensure that the Independent candidate to whom he lost should not be given any importance within the party.
Of course, the sidelining of party seniors is likely to lead to more bickering among those who missed the bus — some of them like Umesh Katti and S Angara have been MLAs for six to eight terms. However, they are left with no choice but bear it with a grin.
Meanwhile, when asked about leaders and MLAs reaching out to Vijayendra more than anyone else, Kateel, a three-time MP from coastal Karnataka, said there was nothing wrong in that.