Files crawl as CM hogs portfolios

When the Constitution (Ninety-first Amendment) Act, 2003, that caps the strength of the council of ministers in States at 15 per cent of the membership of the Assembly, was implemented, political parties in Karnataka bitterly objected to it, arguing that it would hamper governance.

Ironically, the present Cabinet has only 24 ministers (though it can have a maximum of 34 ministers), and Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda has no plans to fill the remaining berths at least till he presents the budget in the third week of March. 

This will probably be the last budget of the first BJP government in the State, as the Assembly elections are due in the first quarter of 2013. Gowda has kept with himself 22 portfolios.

Although the party riven by factions has a large number of ministerial aspirants, Gowda appears to be in no mood to share the portfolios with his colleagues, or expand the team for now.

When B S Yeddyurappa became the chief minister in 2008, he had 33 ministers, the maximum allowed by law. His self-confidence in filling all the slots caused heartburn among many aspirants, but Yeddyurappa was riding high, and there was little they could do.

Within a couple of months, S K Bellubbi was removed from the Cabinet to accommodate Umesh Katti. The Cabinet soon shrank with the resignation of Krishnaiah Setty, Katta Subramanya Naidu, Hartal Halappa and others. After the porngate episode, three ministers quit, bringing the strength of the Cabinet down to 23. 

Barring Sadananda Gowda, few ministers have been spotted in the Vidhana Soudha or the Vikasa Soudha for almost a week, as has been the case over the past few months, whenever Yeddyurappa demands that the chief minister’s chair be vacated for him. Even after Yeddyurappa declared on Monday that he was not quitting the BJP, ministers loyal to him did not make it to the Secretariat on Tuesday.

The Cabinet did not meet last week and there were no plans to have a meeting this week, at least by Tuesday. A majority of the ministers, however, claim they attend to files and meet the public at their residences. Gowda, with 22 portfolios, will have to work overtime to clear the files, besides attending the pre-budget meetings. 

When Gowda took over as the chief minister, he had said he would ensure no files are pending in any minister’s office. Every minister must be present in the Secretariat at least two days a week, he had said. Neither is happening.

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