Yediyurappa retaining Energy, Bengaluru Development portfolios creates heartburn

Apart from their aspirations being stymied, legislators raise administrative concerns

Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa retaining key portfolios of Bengaluru Development and Energy, even after Cabinet expansion and reshuffle of portfolios, has not gone down well within the Cabinet, especially among Bengaluru city MLAs. Apart from political aspirations of certain Ministers being stymied, legislators and Ministers have also now raised administrative concerns.

“Now that there is a full-fledged Cabinet, first time since the government was formed, we expected the Chief Minister to let go the key departments. The Chief Minister presently holds Finance, Energy and Bengaluru Development Departments and the experience of the last year and a half has shown that he has been unable to give adequate focus on all the departments,” said a senior Minister, who did not wish to be named.

“There are seven Ministers from the city in the Cabinet and not one to handle the city?” another Minister questioned. Meanwhile, two of the new Ministers inducted into the Cabinet lobbied hard to be assigned the Energy Department and are upset over the “low profile” portfolios assigned to them, sources in the party said.

At a recent legislators meeting, Bengaluru MLAs complained of “step-motherly treatment” to their constituencies and they not being consulted on issues.

This was only bringing to the fore a long-held complaint against the Chief Minister — that he is too preoccupied to focus on the city, despite holding the Bengaluru Development portfolio. In an attempt to correct this perception, the Chief Minister recently chaired a review meeting at BDA, formed a high-powered committee led by the Chief Secretary to oversee city development works.

The Chief Minister made two key moves over the last month to erase this image — notification of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Act, 2020, a dedicated law for the city’s governance, and “Bengaluru Mission 2022”, a time-bound programme to address city’s challenges, as city Minister. However, both have faced criticism of being cosmetic.

While this may be a matter of debate, the two moves have made little difference to the primary grouse of legislators from both ruling and Opposition parties — of not knowing whom to approach for city-related issues.

Congress MLA Krishna Byre Gowda said, “As an MLA from the city, I do not know whom to approach for city issues. The Chief Minister, who holds the portfolio, is extremely busy this year especially fighting the pandemic. There is no one else looking at these issues.”

That the BJP high command made C.N. Ashwath Narayan Deputy Chief Minister (Dy.CM), and a much junior to R. Ashok who earlier held charge as both city Minister and Dy.CM, has led to one-upmanship in the government on who holds sway over city affairs. This played a key role in Mr. Yediyurappa retaining the charge of Bengaluru Development, sources said.

Intense competition

Similarly, intense competition among the newly inducted Ministers for the Energy portfolio also prompted the Chief Minister to retain the department, sources close to him said. However, others in the Cabinet said the real reason was that the Chief Minister was indeed keen on retaining these “plum” portfolios.

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