Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has exposed not only himself but also the state to ridicule by reshuffling the portfolios of ministers four times in five days. While the recent cabinet expansion had led to rumblings within the ruling BJP, the allotment of portfolios that followed, created considerable heartburn among the ministers. By bowing to pressure tactics from ministers seeking plum portfolios, Yediyurappa has emerged as a vulnerable and weak leader who is guided more by his own survival than the larger interests of the state or even his party. The mess is a making of his own, as he had engineered defections from the then ruling JD(S)-Congress combine to prop up a BJP government, and is now torn between appeasing the new entrants and pandering to the old-timers in his party. In the process, Yediyurappa has made a mockery of the process of ministry expansion and allocation of portfolios, virtually reducing it to a farce.
While political exigencies cannot be avoided in such exercises, it is unfortunate that Yediyurappa’s sole purpose was to reward the defectors and not to strengthen the administrative efficiency of the government, as the case should have been. Yediyurappa, who had adopted a ‘chop-and-serve’ approach in the portfolio distribution by divesting eight ministers of their existing departments to accommodate the new entrants, mainly defectors, had to face a revolt from those unhappy with their new responsibilities. While some ministers boycotted the cabinet meeting in protest, others threatened to resign if they were not allotted better portfolios. While it is a sad commentary on the chief minister that he succumbed to blackmail from these ministers and changed the portfolios not once but four times in as many days, it is even more disappointing that considerations like merit, capability of the individual or regional representation were all thrown to the wind.
Inconsistency has become the hallmark of this government, with the chief minister taking a U-turn on almost every decision. Speculation has been rife for some time now that somebody else is taking decisions on behalf of the chief minister without consulting senior leaders, leading to many embarrassing situations. Such half-baked decisions put the reputation of the state at stake. However, the last word has not yet been said on the portfolio allotment though Yediyurappa has ignored all rules of propriety to ensure the longevity of his government. If the chief minister hoped to breathe easy, he could not have been more wrong, as he has only created more enemies who are now waiting for an opportune moment to strike.