Karnataka Cabinet expansion: The defectors’ round

Karnataka Cabinet expansion: The defectors’ round

Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa

It is not often that a cabinet expansion is held exclusively to induct defectors from other parties. Karnataka witnessed one such rare event on Thursday, when 10 turncoats from Congress and JD(S) were sworn-in as ministers. Though this may ensure the longevity of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s government, it may result in the larger interests of the state being compromised in more ways than one. Usually, every chief minister strives to ensure a social and regional balance in his cabinet, but Yediyurappa had no such luxury as he was bound to reward the defectors who had contributed to the fall of the previous regime so that the BJP could form the government. With the expansion, over 50% of the ministry now comprises two dominant communities of the state, Lingayats and Vokkaligas, while over a dozen districts, including four of the six in the backward Kalyana Karnataka region, have gone unrepresented.

The cabinet expansion has also laid to rest any doubt that the BJP was behind the MLAs’ resignation drama that brought down the JD(S)-Congress government and who will now enjoy ministerial positions for their “sacrifice.” Indeed, some of the new ministers expressed happiness that the chief minister had kept his “promise.” This is unhealthy for democracy. The fact that 13 of the 15 disqualified legislators were re-elected during the by-elections is a sad pointer to the fact that the voter cares little for ethics in politics. However, Yediyurappa cannot breathe easy as yet, as the old-timers in the party have raised a banner of revolt, demanding their pound of flesh for their long years of “service” to the BJP. Yediyurappa might have contained dissidence temporarily, by leaving six vacancies and promising to fill them in July, but until then, he will be lying on a bed of thorns, especially with the party high command refusing to humour him.

People may have hoped that Yediyurappa, in contrast to the lacklustre HD Kumaraswamy government, would deliver on his promise of good governance, but efficient administration continues to elude the state. Coupled with his inability to form a full-fledged ministry even six months after taking over, the chief minister has also been unable to ensure that the state receives its due share of central funds or flood relief. While currently there is a huge shortfall in the allocation under GST and NREGA, leading to acute stress in the state’s finances, the Centre has proposed a cut of Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 11,000 crore in the devolution of funds for the coming fiscal. It is to these important matters that Yediyurappa’s attention must turn immediately.

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