JD(S), Congress grapple with Cabinet expansion in Karnataka as a Bitter battle breaks out
Bengaluru: A jittery and nervous Chief Minister of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy will on Wednesday expand his Cabinet two weeks after he assumed office. Jittery and nervous because sources in the JD(S) said that there are serious differences among the MLAs on two counts: on those to be inducted and secondly, the portfolios.
Kumaraswamy’s MLAs are upset as two key portfolios of Power and PWD would be going to the CM’s brother and a close relative. These portfolios are money-spinners and the direct beneficiaries would be the Gowda parivar. Sources say that CM’s brother HD Revanna would get the PWD portfolio and that the JD(S) may surrender the power portfolio to the Congress in exchange for Home.
The CM is still battling the issue of allocating portfolios to the JD(S) MLAs as the first phase of cabinet expansion of the JDS-Congress coalition government will take place at 2.12 pm tomorrow – the time fixed by Kumaraswamy’s father HD Deve Gowda.
In the first phase of cabinet expansion, eight to nine MLAs from JD(S) will be inducted in the cabinet. Two to three vacancies will be kept vacant, Kumaraswamy told the press.
The focus, however, was not on the cabinet expansion but the news coming from his camp. Kumaraswamy was at pains to explain that there were no differences in the party. He said it was party national president Deve Gowda who selected the names and he would do so for the next phase too.
But a sting operation by a TV channel showing that JD(S) was not keen to accommodate a Muslim in the Cabinet has put the party in a spot. B M Farook, the money bag of JD(S) and a member of legislative council worth over Rs 780 crore was keen on becoming a minister. But Gowda put his foot down saying only MLAs would get be accommodated. But the sting shows a JD(S) insider saying that the party is upset as Muslims did not support Kumaraswamy and had voted for the Congress.
The JD(S) has a tough job ahead as the party has to balance caste and region representation among the 8-9 portfolios under its control.
There are murmurs in the Congress camp too over who should get which portfolio. The big fight is over giving an important portfolio to DK Shivakumar, the Congress party’s `resort keeper’ (it was he who safeguarded Gujarat lawmakers in the Ahmed Patel episode in a resort and, more recently, the Congress MLAs of Karnataka. Deputy CM G Parameswara does not want DKS to handle an important portfolio as it would reduce his importance.
Senior Congress leaders from the state are in Delhi to discuss the list of ministers and portfolio allocation with the party high command. A bitter tussle has broken out between leaders over accommodating their relatives and hardcore loyalists. The Congress is yet to finalise the number of ministers to take oath and the talks of who should get what is expected to go on till late in the night.
While Deve Gowda will select the JD(S) MLAs, from the Congress side it would be Rahul Gandhi who will have the final say.
It may be recalled that as per the coalition agreement on June 1, Congress was allocated 22 ministerial berths and 12 to JDS. Congress was allocated Home, Irrigation, Health, Agriculture and Women Child Welfare ministries, while JDS agreed with Finance and Excise, Public Works Department, Education, Tourism and Transport ministries.
On the contentious issue of release of Rajinikanth movie Kaala in Karnataka, Kumraswamy said the movie would have to wait. It would be released only after the Cauvery agreement is finalised. That is as good as saying no to the movie’s release.