Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said that he would expand the cabinet on February 6. Thirteen ministers would be inducted into the cabinet on Thursday. This is the first time the Chief Minister has specified a date for expansion, ending several weeks of speculation. He said the formula for expansion was “10+3”, meaning 10 members who crossed over to the BJP and won in the by-elections and three party old-timers.
When asked who among those who won in the by-polls would not be inducted, the chief minister refused to divulge the names. When quizzed whether it would simply be an expansion or more than that, Yediyurappa only said: “It will be decided soon.”
Hours later, intense lobbying began for the portfolios and there was also dissatisfaction in the party. Mahesh Kumathalli expressed his disappointment after learning that he may not be inducted into the cabinet. Those who joined BJP along with him, especially Ramesh Jarkiholi, came out in his support. Meanwhile, the choice of three Ministers from among the BJP’s old-timers has left many disappointed and angry. Some of the aspirants who seem to have not made the cut, reportedly held a meeting and have decided to put pressure on the Chief Minister and even approach the party high command, sources said.
It has been almost six months since Yediyurappa took over as chief minister. Yediyurappa took charge after the collapse of the earlier Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition government following the withdrawal of support by 17 of their MLAs. Those MLAs were disqualified by the coalition government's Speaker and said they could not contest elections until the end of the current Assembly's term in 2023. But the Supreme Court, while upholding their disqualification, said they could stand for elections. In the by-elections, 13 of the former Congress and JDS MLAs won their seats back. Yediyurappa had made it clear that they would be rewarded for helping the BJP come to power.
BJP state spokesperson Ashwath Narayan said, "Cabinet expansion is totally the chief minister's prerogative. Definitely Yediyurappa will take the right decision at the right time. We are a national party and our high command is in Delhi. Our chief minister would have taken opinion of high command. Definitely he will fulfil the demand of legislators who have come from other parties.” The chief minister himself told reporters that the cabinet expansion would happen by the end of January.
With 224 members in the full Assembly, Karnataka can have a maximum of 34 ministers. And with pressure for cabinet berths not just from the newest members of the BJP but also from those who have been with the party for much longer, Yediyurappa is under pressure. He was seen in a video at a function in north Karnataka two weeks ago, getting angry with a Lingayat seer who urged him to add north Karnataka leader Murugesh Nirani to the cabinet.