In what is seen as an effort to appease MLAs likely to be wooed by the BJP, the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka has decided to go in for a mini expansion of its cabinet this week.
The coalition government, which is looking at filling three vacancies in the cabinet, may induct two Independent MLAs to stymie BJP efforts at mustering numbers to topple the government in the coming days.
“I have met the honorable Governor and sought time for expansion of the cabinet. A swearing in has been scheduled for June 12 at 11.30 am,” Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy announced.
The Congress, which has one vacancy in the cabinet on account of the death of minister C S Shivalli, is expected to induct a senior MLA who is disgruntled over being left out of the cabinet.
The JD(S), which has two vacancies in the cabinet, is expected to give one or even two of its vacancies to Independent MLAs who are being wooed by the BJP.
The BJP at present has 105 MLAs in the 224-member state Assembly, while the coalition has 116 MLAs, apart from two Independents and a BSP MLA currently associated with the JD(S).
“It is not a reshuffle but a kind of expansion since there are three vacancies and some dissatisfied MLAs will be accommodated,’’ Congress leader and chairman of the coalition co-ordination committee Siddaramaiah said.
The two independent MLAs tipped to be among those inducted into the cabinet are H Nagesh from Mulbagal and R Shankar from Rannebennur, who extended support to the coalition when it was formed in May 2018. Shankar was a part of the cabinet but was dropped in a reshuffle last year.
In January this year, the independent MLAs had publicly announced withdrawal of support to the coalition after being wooed by the opposition BJP amid a rebellion by a few coalition MLAs.
The offer of cabinet positions to the two independent MLAs is seen as an effort by the Congress-JD(S) coalition to prevent the BJP from reducing the coalition to a minority by getting around 10 MLAs to resign. With the induction of the independents the BJP would have to woo 14 coalition MLAs to reduce the government to a minority in the state assembly.
While there are a number of unhappy legislators in the coalition government, the Congress-JD(S) combine is expected to offer future positions in the cabinet for disgruntled elements after carrying out the mini expansion to improve the coalition numbers.
In the Congress, several veteran MLAs like Ramalinga Reddy, Roshan Baig, and H K Patil have spoken out against party leaders since the huge loss for the coalition the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. Other MLAs like former minister Ramesh Jharkiholi and a group of four to five of his associates have been linked to a move to the BJP for several months.
PTI adds: Later in the day, the chief minister’s office released a statement saying, “Following the death of Jnanpith awardee, writer and theatre personality Girish Karnad, the swearing-in of new ministers scheduled for Wednesday, June 12 has been rescheduled to Friday, June 14 at 1 pm.”