Bitter fight between Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka over Cabinet expansion.
The JD(S)-Congress Government of compulsion and compromise was to last five years, but six days after HD Kumaraswamy was sworn in Chief Minister of Karnataka, the fissures have started widening between the two parties over portfolio allocation.
And six days after oath-taking, HDK and his deputy G Parameshwara do not have a cabinet.
The tussle is over, what they say in Karnataka, ‘Vitamin M’ portfolios. The M standing for Money.
In fact, the Congress has sent a laundry list of plum portfolios it wants for itself to a hapless Kumaraswamy — Energy, Social Welfare, Rural Development, Bengaluru Development, Housing, Tourism, Health, Mining, Excise, Home and Sugar ministries. And the logic quoted by a senior Congress leader is that the party has more MLAs than JD(S).
That will leave the JD(S) with a Chief Minister who claims that he is at the mercy of the Congress and with portfolios like animal husbandry, labour, fisheries, youth services, women and child welfare.
And an aggressive Congress has also scaled down the number of berths for the JD(S) from 17 to 12. The Congress wants 22 berths in the cabinet formation in the first stage itself.
The Congress knows for sure that it can afford to be aggressive as the JD(S) has no options ahead. It cannot divorce the Congress and fall into the arms of the BJP especially after Yeddyruappa hurled personal charges at HDK.
As the talks remained deadlocked, a miffed Kumraswamy said he would get back after consulting his father H D Deve Gowda. But more worrisome is the news emanating from the JD(S) camp that as many as 11 MLAs are ready to switch sides to the BJP if they are not made ministers. This may not happen, but pressure is clearly mounting on HDK from the Congress and from his own camp.
The JD(S) is keen getting the finance portfolio and, like his predecessor Siddaramaiah, Kumaraswamy wants to keep the portfolio to himself. But the Congress too wants this portfolio as it is wary of the JD(S) going in for sops to gain credit and expand its vote base.
The Congress wants Parameshwara to handle the finance portfolio. But with Congress president Rahul Gandhi flying out to the US, the task of ‘softening’ the JD(S) is left to Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjuna Kharge and KC Venugopal who is incharge of Karnataka. But sources say that is playing a major role in the power tussle drama, but behind the scenes.
A tussle has also broken out between two bitter enemies who are now forced to be friends – HDK’s brother H D Revenna and Congress strongman DK Shivakumar. Both of them want the power portfolio. But the Congress has made it clear that the power portfolio in non-negotiable.
Behind all this is another drama. Deve Gowda wants his pound of flesh. He has told the Congress in no uncertain terms that Congress MLA Zameer Khan cannot be inducted into the cabinet. Khan was a JD(S) supporter who switched sides to the Congress and is a close friend of Siddaramaiah.