To quell dissent, Cabinet to be expanded, rejigged

To quell dissent, Cabinet to be expanded, rejigged

Speaking to reporters after chairing the CLP at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha (SVS), former chief minister Siddaramaiah said that he had assured the MLAs that the cabinet would be expanded as promised on December 22. DH photo

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s Cabinet will not only be expanded but will also be reshuffled with some incumbents set to be dropped, on December 22.

With this assurance, the Congress has dodged a bullet, at least for now, as the expansion of the Cabinet coupled with a reshuffle will allow the party to accommodate at least eight disgruntled MLAs and thereby quell dissidence that has been simmering ever since the government was formed in June this year.

Amid rumours in both the Congress and the JD(S) camps about the Cabinet expansion being put off till after the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress on Tuesday reiterated that the exercise would be carried out on December 22.

Soon after the crucial Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, the state Congress leaders inadvertently admitted the party’s decision to go in for both an expansion and a reshuffle.

Congress leaders will fly to New Delhi to meet party chief Rahul Gandhi on December 20 to finalise names for ministerial posts.

In the 34-member Cabinet, the Congress has filled 16 positions out of the available 22. In addition to filling six vacant positions, the party is likely to accommodate two more MLAs, by replacing them with two ministers. The leaders, however, chose not to spell out the details.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah told reporters after chairing the CLP at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha that he assured the MLAs that the Cabinet would be expanded as promised on December 22. He also said that the state leaders had assured prominence would be given to north Karnataka MLAs both in the Cabinet and during appointments to boards and corporations.

The Congress will appoint 20 of its MLAs to various boards and corporations, while the JD(S) will appoint 10 MLAs to these statutory bodies. Though MLCs from both parties have been vying for these posts, their demand will not be met, said sources.

He said the party had also asked the MLAs to send in their names for making nominations to various committees and societies and added that MLAs had aired issues pertaining to development works and non-release of funds.

Congress and JD(S) leaders will hold a joint legislature party meeting after the ongoing winter session of the legislature to iron out issues, Siddaramaiah said.

Asked about a few disgruntled MLAs including Ramalinga Reddy and R Roshan Baig skipping the CLP meet, Siddaramaiah said: “There is never 100% attendance. Those who could not make it to the CLP have submitted letters explaining reasons for their absence. Almost all ministers, except Ramesh Jarkiholi, were present at the meeting.”

To a pointed question on whether the party would go in for a Cabinet expansion or a reshuffle, Siddaramaiah said, “Both.” He, however, added: “Whatever the MLAs want will happen.”

He also said the government had not discriminated against Congress MLAs when it came to releasing funds for development works. “It is just that funds have not been released in certain constituencies.”

Hirekerur MLA B C Patil, who has been strongly lobbying for a ministerial post, has been one of the biggest critics of the party. He, however, seems to have mellowed down.

“The party has assured us that all our demands will be met. The meeting was very peaceful. A majority of our issues have been resolved. I am still an aspirant for the ministerial post. I am hoping for the best,” he said.

Hoskote MLA M T B Nagaraj, another aspirant, still sounded a little doubtful.

“Many issues came up for discussion during the CLP. We have placed our demands. I am an aspirant. But I don’t know what the high command will do.”

The CLP also passed a resolution congratulating Rahul Gandhi for leading his party to victory in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.