'All my colleagues are No 2 in Cabinet'

“Today, 21 members have been inducted into the ministry. I consider all of them No 2 in the Cabinet,” Gowda said, replying to a query at a press conference immediately after the Cabinet formation.

The BJP put up a show of unity at the press conference. Gowda, after meeting his ministerial colleagues at the Cabinet hall for five minutes over a cup of coffee, addressed the press conference. All the ministers were present with him.  

Looking at Gowda’s reply in perspective, vis-a-vis the developments over the last few days, it is apparent that the chief minister does not even want an “informal” deputy in his Cabinet.

Shettar and R Ashok nurtured ambitions of becoming deputy chief ministers. However, their demand was spiked by the party central leadership. A strong bid by Shettar to bag the post was also brought to a nought by former chief minister Yeddyurappa.

With Shettar — who had unsuccessfully contested against Gowda at the BJP Legislature Party meeting last week — seated next to him, the chief minister said the vacancies in the Cabinet would be filled up within a week after consulting “the state and national leaders”. With 34 as the limit set for the number of Cabinet berths, there are at present 12 vacancies available.

Portfolios to continue

He said the portfolios held by the ministers in the Yeddyurappa Cabinet would continue. “There may be some minor changes here and there, which we will announce soon,” he said.

Gowda, however, evaded a question on how V Somanna could be reinduced into the Cabinet, when his family members had been indicted by the Lokayukta in the report on illegal mining.

To a query on mining magnates Reddy brothers and their close associate Sriramulu being left out of the Cabinet, Gowda said: “This is only the first phase of Cabinet expansion. There will be one more round of expansion. You can ask me the question after that,” he said.

He declined to comment on the arrest of former minister Katta Subramanya Naidu and his corporator son Katta Jagadish.

To New Delhi tomorrow

Gowda said he would leave for New Delhi on Tuesday morning to meet the prime minister  and senior leaders of the BJP central leadership.

“I will also have a meeting with the Central ministers from the State and the Lok Sabha members on Wednesday, and return the same evening,” Gowda said.

The chief minister said the first stage of Cabinet formation would strengthen his government and speed up implementation of development programmes.

The programmes already announced in successive budgets by Yeddyurappa would be implemented on a priority basis and that he would strive to make Karnataka the top state in the country, the chief minister said.

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