A cautious start

Considering the amount of bitterness and the party’s vertical division that preceded the election of D V Sadananda Gowda as the BJP legislature party leader replacing Yeddyurappa, the new chief minister has done well in cobbling together a 21-member cabinet in a matter of five days. He still has 12 vacancies and promised to fill up most of them in the next one week after consulting the central BJP leadership. That Sadananda Gowda, who owes his sudden elevation to chief minister’s post to Yeddyurappa, is still in the ‘grip’ of the former chief minister is evident from the fact that 12 of the 21 ministers inducted into the cabinet belong to Yeddyurappa’s camp. But he was able to douse the challenge from the Jagadish Shettar group by refusing to yield to the demand for the creation of one or even two posts of deputy chief ministers and more importantly, managed to keep out the tainted Reddy brothers and Sriramulu from the ministry. Gowda has also played it safe by opting for only old faces in this first phase of expansion and convincing all of them to carry on with the same portfolios they handled earlier.

It is a small victory for the affable Gowda, who, in the first few days he has been in power, has shown that he will be less confrontationist and more business-like than Yeddyurappa. Gowda’s immediate preoccupation should be to arrest the drift in administration and give it a sense of direction, which was sorely lacking during Yeddyurappa’s tenure. He will have to impress upon his colleagues the importance of attending to their work regularly at Vidhana Soudha and elsewhere and delivering on promises made to the people. He will have to tell them that ministership is not a birthright and their performances will be reviewed every three months and the non-performers will be shown the door. Gowda himself should set an example by attending office at Vidhana Soudha everyday that he is in the capital.

But as the party is riddled with factionalism, Gowda cannot expect to have a smooth sailing. The powerful Reddys and the Jarkiholi group are smarting at the ‘humiliation’ of being left out of the cabinet and they could stir up trouble if their wishes are not accommodated in the next expansion. Then there are the restless ‘defectors’ and Independents whose political fortunes were revived by the Supreme Court and who are waiting for ‘rewards.’ Gowda’s difficult journey has just begun. 

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