Four Members of Parliament from Karnataka, three from the recently elected Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha, have found representation in the Narendra Modi ministry, in BJP attempts to balance the caste equations in the state.
The two major castes in the state – the Vokkaligas and the Lingayats – have found representation through former chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda, the Bangalore North MP, and three-term MP from Davangere in central Karnataka G M Siddeshwara, respectively.
The inclusion of Sadananda Gowda as the seniormost minister from Karnataka addresses BJP attempts to gain currency among the large Vokkaliga community population in southern Karnataka. It also aims to address the party’s strong support base in the coastal Karnataka region which Gowda hails from and also represented previously in the Lok Sabha before switching to the Bangalore North constituency for the current Lok Sabha polls.
The inclusion of G M Siddeshwara, who has no prior experience in government, was the big surprise. The three-term MP, whose father was a two-term MP from Davangere, gained the ministry nod as Lingayat strongman and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa was forced to step aside in the light of pending corruption charges against him.
Siddeshwar is known to be an associate of Yeddyurappa and the first major Modi election rally in Karnataka following Yeddyurappa’s return to the BJP fold after a yearlong estrangement was held in Davangere on February 18. During the rally, Modi had promised to restore the glory of places like Davangere, which was once known as the Manchester of India.
Veteran BJP leader H N Ananth Kumar, the six-term Bangalore South Member Of Parliament, who belongs to the Brahmin community, also finds representation in the Modi cabinet. Kumar was a civil aviation minister in the Vajpayee government in 1998 and later handled urban development, tourism, culture, youth and sports affairs in the NDA government.
Another BJP leader who was a part of the Vajpayee ministry and has also found a place in the Modi ministry is M Venkaiah Naidu, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka since 1998. Naidu, who entered politics in Andhra Pradesh in the 1970s, has been capitalizing on the sizeable vote base that the BJP has had in Karnataka since the 1990s to gain representation in the Rajya Sabha.
Among those who were strongly tipped to be in the BJP government but missed the bus in the final analysis were Shobha Karandlaje, a Vokkaliga and coastal Karnataka leader like Sadananda Gowda, and Ramesh Jigajinagi, a Scheduled Caste leader and three-term MP from Bijapur in northern Karnataka.