The intent of the new Congress government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to appoint ministers with clean images in order to set the ground for a good Congress performance in Karnataka in the parliamentary polls next year has put several legislators with prior experience in government on thin ice.
Siddaramaiah and state Congress president G Parameshwara began an exercise on Wednesday in New Delhi with the party leadership to finalise a list of ministers to fill up the 33 available positions in the new ministry even as several prominent party leaders lobbied against being left out of the government.
Siddaramaiah paid a courtesy call to Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday evening but a more detailed meeting is expected on Thursday once he is able to finalise a tentative list with those involved in the exercise. He also called on President Pranab Mukherjee and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday.
According to Congress sources,among the basic criteria being used for shortlisting the new Karnataka ministry are clean records,people who have won elections more than once on Congress tickets and a balance mix of people with prior knowledge of administration and young upcoming leaders.
The sources said the initial aim is to bring in party seniors into the government to balance caste equations and consolidate the government before moving for an expansion later on involving fresh faces and youngsters.
Siddaramaiah has stated that he is striving for a well-balanced ministry in terms of castes and age and where clean records are a priority. Before leaving for New Delhi,he had stated that he expects to have a ministry in place by Thursday or Friday.
H Vishwanath,Congress MP from Mysore,has already said that those involved in the real estate business,mining business and those with tainted records should not be allowed to become ministers in the new government.
A campaign has also been launched,spearheaded by nonagenarian freedom fighter H S Doreswamy,requesting Siddaramaiah and the Congress to refrain from appointing a bunch of MLAs allegedly having tainted records,including former minister D K Shivakumar and mining baron Anil Lad.
Shivakumar,who was the urban development minister in the S M Krishna government and businessman with interests in real estate and mining,is a former joint chief of the Karnataka state Congress and is considered a key leader of the dominant Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka.
The opposition to Shivakumar and Anil Lad being in the cabinet stems from the fact that their businesses have been named in reports on illegal mining for involvement in some way. But they were given tickets to contest polls after the Congress used the more relaxed criterion of judging candidates by whether they had been convicted by a court or not.
Congress sources said the party high command will undertake a more stringent verification of aspirants to the new ministry since high standards have been set by the party itself in the wake of its recent attempts to send out a message of being tough on corruption. There is a concerted effort to keep out people with tainted records and this is likely to result in some former ministers being left out, a source said.