South Slice | Kar-Nataka: CM Post Fight Settled, Stage Set For Ministers’ Next Act
Winning the assembly elections is only part of the battle won by the Congress in Karnataka, as the sword of dissent continues to hang over the government led by Siddaramaiah. The congressional high command may have temporarily quelled internal unrest over the prime minister’s selection, but the cabinet selection process clearly requires a tougher strategy and some tough decisions.
Despite efforts to present a successful partnership between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, it is clear to keen observers that all is not well.
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“The Congress is operating as a coalition government between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar,” joked a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister.
KAN BANEGA MANTRI?
Both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are facing mounting pressure from their loyal supporters to finalize the cabinet assignment before next weekend. They each want to accommodate their own MLAs, and they seem to disagree on the selection of ministers.
Amid the conflicts, it is known that around 22 additional ministers are expected to be sworn in by the end of the week, spurred by growing demands for quick portfolio assignments. With the government preparing to fulfill its five main commitments to the electorate, the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are forced to quickly delegate responsibilities to these ministers.
Congress is also in a unique dilemma, caught in a web of abundance. With 135 elected MLAs and just 34 ministerial posts, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are certainly proceeding cautiously.
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The two are dealing with increasing pressure from their loyalists, all vying for coveted cabinet positions. Prominent members of the Lingayat, Banjara, Muslim and Vokkaliga communities have been actively involved in fervent lobbying efforts, with some even traveling to Delhi to instill in national Congress leaders why they should be included in the cabinet.
Balancing caste and regional representation within the cabinet, while taking seniority and loyalty into account, poses a formidable challenge for Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar.
FRESH FACES VERSUS EXPERIENCED LEADERS
Added to this situation is another challenge. A senior congressman hinted that the high command seems reluctant to include seasoned veterans in the first round of the full cabinet, as they want to reward a section of the MLAs for their efforts to bring the party to power and also introduce young and new faces. as ministers
The existing cabinet currently comprises eight ministers, excluding Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. The congressional high command had cleared the names of lawmakers for the initial round of cabinet posts to accommodate a mix of caste, community and seniority. The list of eight names was meticulously selected, including MLAs that won unanimous approval with no objection from either faction: Siddu or DKS.
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Armed with their respective lists, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar individually embarked on trips to Delhi, with each leader given the opportunity to propose their preferred names and justify their inclusion in the cabinet. After intense deliberations and heated discussions, both Siddu and Shivakumar have been allowed to suggest five names each as their choices for ministers, with another 8 to 10 names to be chosen by the high command.
Likely names for ministerial posts include Byrathi Suresh, Krishna Byre Gowda, Laxman Savadi, BK Hariprasad, Lakshmi Hebbalkar, Saleem Ahmed, Santosh Lad, Tanveer Sait, Dinesh Gundu Rao, HK Patil, Eshwar Khandre and Dr HC Mahadevappa. However, a significant number of ministers are also being discussed to come from the Lingayat community, who voted for the party and contributed significantly to its success in the Kalyana Karnataka region.
WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK, ASKS BOMMAI
The delay in cabinet appointments has given the BJP an opportunity to criticize the ruling party, and former CM Basavaraj Bommai was quick to express concern over the delayed portfolio allocation.
Seeking a response from Siddaramaiah, the conversation on the assembly floor was as follows:
“I am happy that the Chief Minister has introduced his ministers to the House; all have worked as ministers in the past. Congratulations to the Chief Minister and all the Ministers, but it would have been appropriate if the Chief Minister had introduced the Ministers after assigning them portfolios. He could have introduced them by saying, “DK Shivakumar is the Minister of this… G Parameshwara is the Minister of this…” Why has it not happened? It should be done as soon as possible. In my opinion, if it is done in the before, it will be good,” said Bommai.
Amused but firm, Siddaramaiah joked that he will assign responsibilities as soon as possible. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to answer, Siddu asked Bommai a question in return.
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“How long was BS Yediyurappa alone in the cabinet as Chief Minister? Mr. Former Chief Minister (referring to Bommai), you need not have any doubts about our cabinet. They (the eight Siddaramaiah ministers) will be given the responsibility as soon as possible,” he said.
In July 2019, the then BJP Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa operated as a one-member cabinet for more than three weeks when the BJP took power following the collapse of the JDS-Congress coalition regime.
Not wanting to abandon the verbal duel, Bommai retorted, saying that Yediyurappa was alone when he took the oath.
“In his case, the Ministers have already taken an oath. You have made them ministers and you have not given them any responsibility. What will people think? Asked the former CM.
“No one will think anything. If you, the opposition, don’t think otherwise, that will be more than enough,” Siddaramaiah replied.
Bommai responded once more, saying that he was speaking on behalf of the newly appointed Congress ministers. Siddaramaiah responded with “thanks for your suggestion.”
SIDDU VS DKS: FULL TERM OR SHARED?
It is not just the cabinet, but the statements from the Siddaramaiah camp that have also been causing constant consternation in the Shivakumar camp.
A recent statement by Minister MB Patil, who is closely associated with Siddaramaiah, claimed that the former would continue as CM for the full five-year term. Internally, in a meeting between Sonia Gandhi, Shivakumar and Rahul Gandhi, it was discussed that the Deputy CM should wait a couple of years, clear up his Income Tax (IT) and Execution Directorate (ED) cases, and be ready to take over. the reins of government from Siddaramaiah, who would then be 78 years old. A younger Shivakumar could lead the state into the next elections with him ‘possibly’ at the helm.
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“DK (as Shivakumar is popularly called) must be credited for the victory of the Congress this time, and he will be rewarded. We have Soniaji’s word on this. We will wait, and it will be a ‘sweet’ wait,” said an MLA from Shivakumar camp who is also running for minister.
HIJAB, HALAL BAN
Another issue that appears to concern Congress is the repeal of the ban on hijab, halal and other community laws implemented by the previous BJP government. During the campaign for the May 10 Assembly elections, the Congress, including Shivakumar, campaigned and claimed that they would remove the ban once they took power in the state. Cabinet Minister Priyank Kharge also recently reiterated that Congress is committed to repealing laws banning hijab, halal, superstitions and cow slaughter.
Sources indicate that Congress is approaching this matter cautiously, considering the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The party aims to avoid giving the BJP a chance to capitalize on the problem. However, some party leaders believe that the matter should be pursued, including the proposal to ban Bajrang Dal in the party’s manifesto, which has previously yielded positive results. A decision on the matter will be made soon, according to a member of Congress.
Sources suggest the party is also contemplating implementing its decision to build a 114-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ in Kapalabetta, near the city of Kanakapura, which is intended to be the world’s largest statue of Christ. Kanakapura also happens to be Shivakumar’s constituency.
As a result of discussions to finalize the Karnataka ministers, which reached a deadlock on Thursday, crucial meetings between top Congress leaders and their counterparts from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had to be postponed.