Karnataka cabinet expansion: Denied ministerial berths, Congress MLAs hold protests as party grapples with dissatisfaction

The Congress party in Karnataka is facing vocal displeasure from its own MLAs over the party leadership’s decision to not grant certain members like Ramalinga Reddy and Ramesh Jarkiholi with ministerial ranks in the newly expanded cabinet.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Saturday expanded his six-month-old cabinet, inducting eight members from the Congress in the much-awaited exercise marked by rumblings of dissidence.

According to a report by Livemint, analysts said that the Congress’ pacific move after the expansion, of nominating 37 of its MLAs for roles like the heads of boards, corporations, and parliamentary secretaries, may not curb the exponential dissidence within the party.

 Karnataka cabinet expansion: Denied ministerial berths, Congress MLAs hold protests as party grapples with dissatisfaction

Supporters of Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy protested Anekal on Monday. ANI

The report said, “The party’s decision to ignore senior leaders and reward “troublemakers” with cabinet berths due to "political compulsions”, has not gone down well with many veterans, and is likely to have an impact on the preparations for next year’s Lok Sabha polls.”

A day after being dropped, Belagavi strongman Ramesh Jarkiholi reportedly went into hibernation, much to the discomfort of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka.

Ramesh (former municipal administration minister) was accused of hobnobbing with the BJP, and R Shankar (former forest and environment minister), an Independent lawmaker who showed reluctance to be an associate member of the Congress, were the two MLAs dropped in the rejig. Ramesh, who has allegedly been getting close to BJP leaders and has not been attending cabinet and party meetings, has been replaced by his brother Satish Jarkiholi.

However, senior Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah denied claims of there being any discontent in the ranks of the party, according to PTI.

He said, “There is no discontent in the party and nobody will resign. His (Ramesh's)  brother has been made minister from his family," Siddaramaiah told reporters in Jamakhandi.

However, The New Indian Express reported that Ramesh, after being dropped from the cabinet, has decided to quit as MLA.

The new ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy at the Glass House at Raj Bhavan by Governor Vajubhai Vala amid open expression of dissent by several Congress legislators who were left out of the exercise.

Apart from Satish, the new inductees are MB Patil, CS Shivalli, MTB Nagaraj, E Tukaram, PT Parameshwar Naik, Rahim Khan and RB Thimmapur. Seven of these leaders have been picked from north Karnataka to address concerns of the region and counter the BJP in its area of influence.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had given the go-ahead for the rejig on Friday night after state party leaders and AICC in-charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal met him and discussed the issue that had been delayed for very long.

Ramesh has claimed the support of a sizeable chunk of party MLAs and had come under the party scanner over reports that the BJP was trying to tap him to remove the Kumaraswamy government. The names of Ramesh and Shankar were recommended to the governor for being dropped, the chief minister's office said.

Congress' coalition partner JD(S) was not part of this round of cabinet expansion and it is likely to induct new ministers from its side post 'Sankranti' (mid-January), party sources said.

According to the pact between the two parties at the time of formation of the coalition government in May, there were six vacant ministerial slots for Congress and two for JD(S). This is the second expansion of the 26-member Kumaraswamy ministry.

With the cabinet expansion being deferred repeatedly, several aspirants, especially those from Congress, had openly expressed their displeasure over the delay, piling pressure on the party to fill its quota so as to avoid any trouble ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

As the list of probable ministers came out, lawmakers who were aspirants for ministerial berths, spoke publically, giving vent to their displeasure over being kept out.

Sowmya Reddy (MLA), daughter of senior Congress MLA and former minister Ramalinga Reddy, expressed resentment over her father not being considered in the cabinet expansion, pointing out his contribution for the party's growth in Bengaluru city.

Reddy's supporters staged a protest in front of the KPCC state headquarters and tried to march to Raj Bhavan while the swearing-in ceremony was underway on Saturday. Sowmya also said she had declined the post of parliamentary secretary.

Another aspirant and Hirekerur MLA BC Patil was also unhappy over not being considered for any ministerial post. His supporters staged a protest in his constituency. "I don't know the reason, but I have not got (ministerial post) this time also," he said. On his next course of action, Patil said he would follow party workers' directions and work for his constituency's development.

Another Congress MLA BK Sangamesh from Bhadravathi said he was the lone party legislator from Shivamogga district, the stronghold of BJP president BS Yeddyurappa, and said Siddaramaiah had promised to make him a minister.

He said he would decide his further course of action after discussions with party workers and resign if they asked him to do so. Hagaribommanahalli MLA Bheema Naik hit out at the party leadership for giving chance to Parameshwar Naik and neglecting him.

Many senior Congress MLAs were also reportedly miffed over their exclusion.  As the voice of dissent became shrill, KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao warned that the party would not brook any indiscipline.

"Indiscipline or speaking against the party will not be tolerated. We have shown tolerance but it will not be possible to continue with the same. We will enforce discipline," he said. However, Rao did not foresee any problem as a fallout of Saturday's exercise.

The KPCC chief also sought to placate the disgruntled MLAs, saying the party would evaluate the performance of ministers after the Lok Sabha polls when the ministry would have completed one year and drop those found not up to the mark and give chance to aspirants in their place.

Reacting to the exercise, senior BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa said the disgruntlement would "explode", as there are too many aspirants. "In my opinion, the dropping of Ramesh would have repercussions. Let's wait and see what will happen," he added.

Ruling out any attempts by BJP to take advantage of the situation, Yeddyurappa said, "We have 104 MLAs, we will work as the Opposition. We are watching the situation about the confusion between Congress and JD(S) and its repercussions. We will call our legislature party meeting later and discuss with our high command on steps to take."

In tandem with cabinet expansion, Congress has recommended the appointment of 19 legislators as heads of boards and corporations and nine as parliamentary secretaries to ministers, besides, three others have been appointed as political secretary to the chief minister, state special representative to Delhi and deputy chairman of the state planning commission.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Dec 24, 2018 15:47:45 IST