BS Yediyurappa's new cabinet appears to be a rather lopsided attempt to pacify core voter base, while also trying to make inroads into the uncharted territories of south Karnataka by rewarding leaders from around the area.
When Yediyurappa took almost 25 days to finalise his cabinet, expectations were that the chief minister would come up with a novel solution balancing castes, sub-regional aspirations, and the need to reward performers from own party along with rebel MLAs who pulled the rug from under the Congress-JD(S) coalition to help the BJP come to power. What emerged was an asymmetrical list heavily leaning in favour of the Bengaluru urban area and the dominant Lingayat community.
Eight Lingayat leaders were sworn in as ministers today (including Yediyurappa himself), out of the total 18, ensuring the community holds an almost 44 percent share in the Yediyurappa cabinet.
The Vokkaligas, who are traditionally JD(S) supporters and account for 12 to 13 percent of Karnataka's population, have received a 16 to 17 percent share with three ministerial seats. The Vokkaligas, the second most dominant community in Karnataka, are the single-largest caste in the old Mysore region and north Karnataka, where BJP has a minimal presence. The fact that the outgoing government, apparently toppled by Lingayat leader Yediyurappa, was also led by Karnataka's most powerful Vokkaliga clan, the Gowdas did not help the BJP's case.
Hence, Yediyurappa has tried to reach out to the community by offering three ministerial posts to its leaders, including one to the Vokkaliga MLA from Bengaluru, Dr CN Ashwathanarayana, who was apparently tasked with poaching Congress and JD(S) MLAs from the community.
The cabinet also includes three Dalits, namely Govind M Karjol, Prabhu Chavan and Independent legislator H Nagesh. The Dalit community accounts for an estimated 25 percent of the state's 6.5 crore population. S Suresh Kumar is the lone Brahmin face in the Yediyurappa cabinet. B Sreeramulu, a close aide of mining baron G Janardhana Reddy and a strong face from the Valmiki community, has also been included in the ministry.
BJP MLA Shashikala Jolle is the lone woman minister in the Yediyurappa cabinet.
Although unburdened with the task of inducting the 17 rebels in the cabinet " as they are still battling out their disqualification from state Assembly in Supreme Court " the BJP did send a message by inducting Independent MLA Nagesh in the cabinet. Nagesh had resigned from the Congress-JD(S) cabinet and pledged support to BJP in July. BJP MLA Ashwathanarayana, and party leader Laxman Savadi who apparently played a role in displacing MLAs from the previous coalition government have also been rewarded with cabinet berths. Savadi does not even hold a seat in the current Assembly, and will have to win a by-election within the next six months.
Sources told PTI that of the sanctioned strength of 34 ministers (including the chief minister), 16 seats have been deliberately kept aside to reward the rebel MLAs in case of a favourable ruling from the Supreme Court. The then speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified 17 Congress-JD(S) rebel under the anti-defection law till the end of the Assembly term, a move they have challenged in court. Only on getting any relief from the Supreme Court can the disqualified MLAs contest the bypolls.
Region-wise too, the representation has been unequal. Bengaluru, a lone urban district has got four ministerial seats whereas six MLAs from the Mumbai-Karnataka region got ministerial berths. BJP's loyal voter base in South Karnataka was given only two ministerial seats, the naturally well-endowed but politically-neglected Malnad region also got just two seats in the cabinet.
The underdeveloped Hyderabad-Karanataka region, coastal and central Karnataka districts also had to be content with one seat each.
The disregard to sub-regional aspiration and sidelining many important faces in the BJP to save seats for Congress-JD(S) rebels may create unrest within the party. There were reports that many BJP MLAs, including ministerial aspirants Balachandra Jarkhiholi, Murugesh Nirani, MP Renukacharya, Basangouda Patil Yatnal, Umesh Katti, and GH Thippareddy missed the swearing-in ceremony of their own party colleagues.
Several Yediyurappa loyalists too could not make it in the list, with party sources suggesting that BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santosh, who is from Karnataka and considered Yediyurappa's bÃªte noire, was consulted before the final list was cleared by the party top brass. The party had expected that with the high command having the final say, any voices of open expression of dissent were unlikely. But an MLA told a senior local journalist that like-minded MLAs will soon meet in Bengaluru to ask the party high command to consider them for ministerial seats.
Karnataka can have a maximum of 34 ministers, including the chief minister " 18 of these berths have been filled after the current induction of ministers.