The Congress-Janata Dal Secular (JDS) government in Karnataka on Wednesday inducted 25 ministers in the first major cabinet expansion since JDS leader H D Kumaraswamy was sworn in as chief minister and Congress leader G Parameshwara took oath as deputy chief minister on May 23.
The 27-member cabinet is dominated by members of Vokkaliga community — 10 from the community — which backs the JDS, even though the Congress, which has got 22 of the 34 cabinet berths, has attempted to balance caste equations keeping in mind its support base in the backward castes, Dalits and minorities.
The JDS, which had a pre-poll alliance with the BSP, has inducted a Dalit MLA of the party as a minister. Kollegal MLA N Mahesh became the first BSP MLA to become a minister in Karnataka government.
The Congress list of ministers includes names of a few MLAs who the BJP allegedly tried to poach ahead of a trust vote for the coalition and senior leader D K Shivakumar who was at forefront of protecting the Congress flock from being poached .
One of the two Independent MLAs — R Shankar from Rannebennur — who backed Congress has been inducted into the cabinet. The Congress has filled 16 of its alloted 22 berths in the cabinet while the JDS has filled 11 of the 12 berths it has under the coalition agreement. The only woman in the cabinet is actress and Congress MLC Jayamala. She seems to have made the cut since she is from the backward Billava community from coastal Karnataka, where the Congress won only one of 13 seats.
The JDS has given berths to seven Vokkaligas, including CM Kumaraswamy and his elder brother H D Revanna, while the Congress has given berths to three leaders of the community, including former ministers Shivakumar and Krishna Byregowda.
Both the JDS and the Congress have given berths to two MLAs each from the other dominant community in the state, the Lingayats, known to be a key support base of the BJP.
The Congress has not given cabinet berths to Lingayat leaders like Shamanur Shivashankarappa, M B Patil and S R Patil and has instead preferred Rajashekhar Patil and Shivanand Patil. The JDS has given cabinet berths to the only two Lingayat MLAs from north Karnataka — M C Managuli, an associate of H D Devegowda and Venkatarao Nadagouda. Both the Congress and JDS have accommodated one minister from the backward caste Kuruba community of former CM Siddaramaiah.
The Congress has given two Muslim legislators — U T Khader and Zameer Ahmed Khan — and one Christian — K J George — place in the cabinet from among the minorities. Veteran politician R V Deshpande of the Congress is the only Brahmin in the cabinet.
There are four ministers from SC or Dalit communities — the BSP’s N Mahesh and the Congress’s Parameshwara (deputy CM), Priyank Kharge, son of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, and Venkataramanappa. The Congress has provided one berth to the backward caste Uppara community — Puttaranga Shetty — and one to the ST Valmiki Nayak community — Ramesh Jharkiholi.
Thirteen of the 30 districts in Karnataka are unrepresented in the new cabinet. “Cabinet formation took a while since a coalition is involved,’’ Kumaraswamy said. “Cabinet berths have been allocated and portfolios will be allocated soon. There is bound to be some dissatisfaction among those who did not make it. We will try to resolve them,” deputy chief minister Parameshwara said.