Will existing ministers be dropped and replaced with new ones during the Cabinet expansion likely to take place on October 10 or 12? Speculation is rife in the Congress that three ministers will likely be axed, making way for senior leaders to fill the posts during the Cabinet expansion.
Several disgruntled leaders of the Congress, who were sidelined and not given the plum ministerial berths they expected, are now lobbying for dropping newcomers from the Cabinet. However, controllers of the Congress in Karnataka are not too keen on axing any existing minister fearing severe backlash and another round of dissent in a party which is riddled with bickering leaders. However, it was Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy who announced the expansion could happen either on October 10 or 12.
“Leaders like MB Patil and MTB Nagaraju are really unhappy that R Shankar, who they consider a nobody bagged the Environment and Forest portfolio. Some leaders want R Shankar to be dropped and instead be given the chairmanship of a board. But Parameshwara and Dinesh Gundu Rao are not keen on dropping anyone and are saying no to the lobbyists. In fact, they are mulling over whether a Cabinet expansion should take place before the Lok Sabha polls,” a Congress source said.
Babaleshwar MLA, Siddaramaiah loyalist and former Water Resource Minister MB Patil, Bhadravati MLA BK Sangamesh, Sandur MLA Tukaram, Kundgol MLA CS Shivalli, Hirekerur BC Patil, Hosakote MLA MTB Nagaraju, BTM Layout MLA Ramalinga Reddy, Yeshwanthpur MLA ST Somashekar and Vijayanagar MLA M Krishnappa are lobbying for ministerial berths.
“All of Siddaramaiah’s supporters in the party, some of them heavyweights, were not given ministerial posts. It was shocking because for these leaders it was inconceivable that they did not get even a single portfolio. MTB Nagaraju, who funded most of the election campaigning in the south, was extremely unhappy because he was sidelined during several Cabinet reshuffles in Siddaramaiah’s time and this time too he was benched. It is very likely that he will be given a ministerial berth,” a Congress source said.
Congress insiders indicated that MLA CS Shivalli is keen on Minister R Shankar’s removal, while JD(S) leader and Primary Education Minister N Mahesh wants Congress leader and Minister for the Department of Backward Classes and Welfare Puttarangashetty to be dropped.
Under the power-sharing arrangement, Congress is to have 22 ministers and the JD(S) 12. Congress has six vacant ministerial positions, while JD(S) has one.
“Since there are so many MLAs and only six vacant ministerial posts, these MLAs will be appointed as heads of boards and companies run by the government. Congress will get to appoint 20 people and we will have to decide who gets what. Dinesh Gundu Rao is set to meet Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Saturday to discuss whether an expansion is good and if so, who should be given the berths,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Congress and JD(S) have reached an agreement to field candidates for the Ramanagara and Jamkhandi bye-polls. The JD(S) has decided to field Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita Kumaraswamy, while the Congress had decided to field Anand Nyamagouda, son of deceased Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda Patil.
The Congress is planning to bank on sympathy votes in Jamkhandi as local strongman Siddu Nyamagouda had died in an accident in may this year, a few days after the elections results were announced.
The bye-polls are being held in Ramanagara as Kumaraswamy had contested and won both Ramanagara and Channapattana seats. He has decided to give up his seat in Ramanagara to make way for his wife Anita.
After delimitation in 2008, Ramanagara was reduced to four assembly constituencies – Ramanagara, Kanakpura, Magadi and Channapattana.
The Ramanagara Assembly constituency is a bastion of the JD(S). Ever since party President HD Kumaraswamy contested polls in 2004 from this area, the seat has never been lost to another party. JD(S) insiders say that since Ramanagara is a district dominated by the Vokkaliga and the Muslim community, it has always been difficult for the BJP to make inroads here.
“The only prominent Vokkaliga leader in BJP is R Ashoka and he too does not have that much clout here because he belongs to a section of the Vokkaliga community which is not politically active. It has always been easy for the JD(S) to win here,” a JD(S) leader said.
In 2008, Anita Kumaraswamy made her political debut and won the Madhugiri assembly bye-elections. She contested through a JD(S) ticket from Channapattana in the 2013 assembly elections and lost to strongman CP Yogeshwar. She also lost in the 2014 Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha elections against DK Suresh, brother of Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar.
Meanwhile, the BJP is likely to field its district President M Rudresh in Ramanagara. The party is, however, yet to announce its candidates.