Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa expanded his cabinet Wednesday, inducting seven new ministers and dropping one minister to take the strength of the cabinet to 33 – one short of full capacity.
The cabinet expansion in the BJP government, which came to power in 2019 after 17 MLAs from the previous Congress-JDS government defected to the BJP, had been long pending on account of Yediyurappa’s intent to induct all the Congress-JDS rebels.
“We have sent the names of seven legislators to Raj Bhavan to be inducted into the cabinet. Umesh Katti, Arvind Limbavalli, M T B Nagaraj, Murugesh Nirani, R Shankar, C P Yogeshwar and S Angara will take oath,” Yediyurappa announced before the swearing-in. “We are keeping one post vacant. Other issues (like portfolios) will be discussed with party general secretary (Arun Singh) and finalised,” he added.
Among those who were widely tipped to be inducted into the cabinet but did not find a place is film producer-turned- politician Munirathna Naidu, who was among 14 Congress rebels who defected to the BJP. Munirathna was elected BJP MLA in November from RR Nagar constituency after Yediyurappa promised to make him a minister if voters helped him win the bypoll. Another rebel MLA, H Nagesh, was dropped as Excise Minister but appointed head of B R Ambedkar Development Corporation later in the day.
Former JDS MLA H Vishwanath, who joined the BJP in 2019, also did not find a berth. Vishwanath was nominated as an MLC after he lost a bypoll in 2019, but the high court recently ruled that MLAs disqualified for defection must get re-elected to the Assembly or Council to be eligible to become a minister.
Among the seven legislators inducted into the cabinet, M T B Nagaraj and R Shankar were elected to the council — they were part of the group of 17 MLAs disqualified in 2019 by the Speaker for defecting to the BJP.
With the expansion, Yediyurappa has accommodated 12 of the 17 Congress and JDS rebels in the cabinet, leaving 21 berths for BJP legislators.
Among the seven inducted, four are long-term BJP leaders — Umesh Katti is an eight-term MLA, Arvind Limbavalli and Murugesh Nirani three-term MLAs and S Angara a six term MLA. The selection of C P Yogeshwar, an MLC who has often switched loyalties, is learnt to have caused resentment in BJP ranks. The move is being seen as the BJP’s attempt to counter state Congress president D K Shivakumar in the Vokkaliga belt where the two are rivals.
Of the seven legislators inducted into the cabinet, two each are from the Lingayat, OBC Kuruba and SC communities and one from Vokkaliga community. The cabinet now has 11 ministers from the Lingayat community, including CM Yediyurappa, seven from Vokkaliga community, three each from the SC, Kuruba and ST communities, five from OBC communities and one from the Brahmin community.
The cabinet expansion prompted strong remarks by BJP MLAs who did not get the berths. Basavaraj Patil Yatnal told reporters in Vijayapura that two legislators who were accommodated had blackmailed Yediyurappa with a CD. “People who were blackmailing with a CD have been given posts. This is embarrassing for the Veerashaiva Lingayat community. One of them also paid money. The three met me and spoke about joining hands to topple Yediyurappa. The family of the CM has hijacked the BJP,” he said.
Other BJP MLAs who made their resentment known are Arvind Bellad, M P Renukacharya, Abhay Patil, and Raju Gouda. Gouda said the expansion had “not addressed regional and caste imbalances” in the cabinet and said prominence was given to leaders from Bengaluru and Belagavi regions and Hyderabad-Karnataka region had been ignored again.
Former Congress MLA and BJP minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, who led the rebel MLAs whose resignation helped the BJP come to power expressed unhappiness over the exclusion of Munirathna Naidu but welcomed the induction of Yogeshwar.
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