Karnataka bypolls | Lobbying intensifies for ministerial berths

Lobbying for ministerial berths intensified over the weekend, close on the heels of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s announcement that he intended to visit Delhi immediately after the bypoll results on Tuesday to get the high command’s clearance for Cabinet expansion.

It has been a long-pending exercise and the Chief Minister has not been able to get the high command to allow him to expand/reshuffle his Cabinet for several months now. During his Delhi visit in the third week of September, when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president J.P. Nadda, he failed to achieve the desired result, triggering speculation that the central leaders were thinking of a leadership change in Karnataka after the Bihar Assembly polls. “The exit polls predicting an upset defeat for the NDA government in Bihar seems to have only made the Chief Minister more assertive. This is evident in how he has announced his intent to visit Delhi to get clearance for a Cabinet expansion/reshuffle. A defeat [for the BJP] in Bihar will only strengthen the credentials of a regional satrap like Yediyurappa who can deliver poll wins for the party,” one of his close associates said.

While campaigning for the bypolls, Mr. Yediyurappa had confidently announced that Munirathna, the BJP candidate in R.R. Nagar, would be a Minister after the polls. He has now followed this up by announcing his intention to go to Delhi for the high command’s approval.

Push for reshuffle

With C.T. Ravi’s resignation from the Cabinet being accepted, the number of vacancies has gone up to seven. “The Chief Minister is likely to push for a Cabinet reshuffle, drop some Ministers, and accommodate more new faces. Some of the north Karnataka MLAs have held meetings of legislators and openly declared their dissidence over the last few months,” a strategist close to Mr. Yediyurappa said. While the party circles are abuzz with speculation about who might be dropped in case of a reshuffle, sources close to the Chief Minister said he was holding his cards close to his chest. Whether the high command will permit him to undertake a reshuffle or only clear an expansion exercise is to be seen.

Mr. Yediyurappa has already made public commitments to make R. Shankar, N. Nagaraj (MTB), Munirathna, and Umesh Katti Ministers. He is expected to keep his word, in the case of Munirathna, only if he wins, sources said. Meanwhile, several others, including A.H. Vishwanath, Arvind Limbavali, C.P. Yogeshwar, and Raju Gowda, have been lobbying hard for a ministerial berth. “Balancing the aspirations of several ministerial aspirants will be a challenge any day. While the Cabinet expansion/reshuffle is pitched as a medicine to put a lid on political dissidence, it may also end up opening a can of worms,” a senior Minister said.

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