6 Months After BS Yediyurappa Oath, Karnataka Waits For Cabinet Expansion

With 224 members in the full Assembly, Karnataka can have a maximum of 34 ministers.

BS Yediyurappa had told reporters the cabinet expansion would happen by the end of January.

Bengaluru:

It has been almost six months since BS Yediyurappa took over as chief minister of Karnataka at the head of a BJP government. But there still isn't a full cabinet in place. Mr 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 told they could not contest elections until the end of the current Assembly's term in 2023. This was a setback for those MLAs as it meant they could not enter the BJP government as ministers as a reward for helping that party come to power. 

But the Supreme Court, while upholding their disqualification, said they could stand for elections. And they promptly did so after 16 out of the 17 joined the BJP. 15 seats left vacant by their disqualification had bypolls in December - and 13 of the former Congress and JDS MLAs won their seats back. Mr Yediyurappa had made it clear that they would be rewarded for helping the BJP come to power.

Dr K Sudhakar, earlier with the Congress, won the Chikkaballapur seat again on a BJP ticket. He told NDTV, "Regarding assurances, I do not know. I have not been given any commitment. Nor have I come to this party with any prior agreement. I have not done any quid pro quo. Ideologically, I took this decision. Regarding offering of a ministry, that is left to my BJP high command. My leader, Yediyurappa ji. If he feels I am capable and can build the BJP in the areas where it is not there - I am the only face there. If they give me an opportunity, definitely I will prove that I am worthwhile. I hope the chief minister's decision would be in my favour."

But if they all were hoping to be immediately made ministers - they were in for a disappointment. Mr Yediyurappa just didn't seem to get time with his party's high command in order to finalise names of who would make the cut. 

BJP state spokesperson Ashwath Narayan told NDTV, "Cabinet expansion is totally the Chief Minister's prerogative. Definitely Mr Yediyurappa will take the right decision at the right time. We are a national party and out 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. He will expand the government shortly. There is no delay. Last month all our leaders were busy with Jharkhand election. Now Delhi election is going on. These are all technical issues."

The chief minister himself told reporters in Hassan that the cabinet expansion would happen by the end of January. But the Congress in the state is critical of the delay. KPCC President, Dinesh Gundu Rao spoke to NDTV and said, "The state government under Mr Yediyurappa is in complete disarray. The expansion should have been done. It has been six months now. So many departments are without a minister. This government is not implementing any programmes. Flood affected areas have been badly hit. Financial mess is there. Without ministers heading departments, there is no functioning... These differences within the BJP - between the Chief Minister and central leadership is creating a lot of problems and it is the people who are suffering."

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, Mr 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.

Even the first expansion of the cabinet took time with Yediyurappa being the only cabinet member for weeks - after taking charge as chief minister at a time when Karntaka was facing severe flooding. At that time, when he has approached chief Amit Shah to speak about expansion - he had been sent back by the then party chief to oversee flood measures.