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Lobbying intensifies for min berths in BSY cabinet
With Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa indicating about cabinet expansion after the ruling BJP swept the December 5 bypolls that has given stability to his government, lobbying has intensified for ministerial berths, by both old guards and new entrants.
A day after the BJP won 12 of the total of 15 seats in the byelections, he said on Tuesday that he would soon hold discussions with the party leadership on cabinet expansion, and made it clear that 11 disqualified MLAs (of the total 13 fielded by BJP) who successfully contested the bypolls on party tickets, will be made Ministers. With indication from the Chief Minister that newly elected legislators will get the lion's share during the expansion, several senior party MLAs have intensified efforts to secure a berth in the cabinet along with them. In an apparent show of strength and unity, the disqualified legislators -- both who have won and lost on BJP ticket during the bypolls -- on Wednesday met Chief Minister together and held discussions.
Party sources said, during the meeting they thanked Yediyurappa for the support during the bypolls and sought his continued cooperation in both the government and the party. Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Yediyurappa, newly elected BJP MLA from Yeshwanthpura S T Somashekar said, "We had come together to thank him, as he had campaigned in each of our constituencies at least twice".
He said, they have requested for addressing issues relating to R R Nagara and Maski, represented by disqualified Congress legislators Munirathna and Pratap Gowda Patil respectively, where bypolls could not be held due to pending litigation in the High Court, filed by their then opponents in the BJP after 2018 assembly polls.
"We also expressed intention to meet Home Minister Amit Shah, but he (CM) has asked to wait for a few days as Parliament session is on," he added. However, clarifying that no discussions have taken place regarding cabinet expansion and portfolio allocation, Somashekar said, "... no demand, no one has asked for any portfolio, we only thanked him (CM) and told him that we were together to cooperate with him and sought his cooperation."
On the demand for induction into the Ministry of disqualified MLAs who had contested the bypolls on the BJP ticket but lost- A H Vishwanath (Hunsur) and MTB Nagraj (Hoskote) --, he said the Chief Minister and party high command will take a call on it, "we don't have anything to do with it". Also, maintaining that all disqualified legislators, whether they won or lost, were united and there is no question of leaving anyone alone, Somashekar in response to a query about some amount of displeasure among some BJP members against their induction into the Ministry, said, "We are not here to compete with anyone..."
Another newly elected MLA from Chikkaballapura K Sudhakar too said, none of them had asked for any portfolio, and the Chief Minister who has absolute authorityon the matter will take a call on it depending on the capability. "Chief Minister has said as of now those who have won the bypolls will be inducted, regarding others it is left for the party and him (CM) to decide, he added.
All the disqualified legislators both those who have won the bypolls and others had held a meeting in the city last night and had resolved to stay united as an unit, sources said. Cabinet expansion will not be an easy task as Yediyurappa will have to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators as he had promised and also make place for old guards, upset at being "neglected" in the first round of the induction exercise.
He also has to give adequate representation to various castes and regions in his cabinet, that currently has 18 ministers including the Chief Minister, and the sanctioned strength is 34. Amid talks of cabinet reshuffle to maintain regional and caste balance, instead of expansion, Revenue Minister R Ashoka said, "there is no such possibility and the additional portfolios that the existing Ministers have may be allocated to newly inducted. Chief Minister will take a call on that." He also said, none of the newly elected MLAs have demanded for any particular portfolio.
The cabinet already has eight Lingayats, including the CM, three Vokkaligas, three from Scheduled Caste, two OBCs, one Scheduled Tribe and a Brahmin. While, among the winners who will be inducted into the cabinet there are three Lingayats, four Vokkaligas and one Kuruba, and inducting them will increase the number of Lingayats in the Cabinet to 11 and Vokkaligas to seven.
Region-wise in the current cabinet, Bengaluru Urban with four Ministers and Belgavi and Shivamogga with two each have a larger share in the Ministry. With the induction of newly elected, Bengaluru and Belagavi will get three more Ministers, which may trigger a criticism of regional imbalance in the Ministry. Meanwhile, BJP MLAs from Gulbarga Subhash Guttedar and Dattatraya C Patil Revoor met the Chief Minister and are said to have requested representation to their region in the Ministry that has no Ministers so far.
Also, allocating plum portfolios will be another hard task that Yediyurappa will have to tackle with and strike a balance between old and the new BJP MLAs.