Karnataka ministry expansion likely next week

Bengaluru: The much-awaited cabinet expansion of the BJP government in Karnataka is set for next week, ahead of Union Home Minister and party President Amit Shah’s visit to Hubballi on January 18, a party official said on Thursday.

“Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa will expand his cabinet for the second time on January 16-17 after the Sankranti festival on January 14-15 and before Shah’s visit to the state on January 18 to step up the party’s awareness campaign in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act,” party’s state spokesman G. Madhusudhana told IANS here.

With scores of ministerial aspirants vying for a berth in the 34-member cabinet, including the Chief Minister, hectic lobbying is on in the ruling party as, there are only 16 vacant posts to fill in after 17 were inducted in the first cabinet expansion on August 21, with three appointed Deputy Chief Ministers.

“As the party is committed to make at least 10 of the newly re-elected legislators ministers for having resigned from their assembly seats and paved way for the party’s return to power again in July, only six party legislators can be given cabinet berths, keeping in view the regional representation and caste combination,” said Madhusudhana.

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In the December 5 by-elections to 15 assembly seats, the BJP won 12, including 11 contested by those who joined the party after they were disqualified from the assembly for defying the whip issued by the Congress and the JD-S in July but were allowed to re-contest by the Supreme Court on November 13.

“Among the aspiring legislators, some of them will be made chairmen of boards and corporations, as they are equivalent to cabinet posts. All of them cannot be made ministers due to political compulsions and to ensure the nearly 6-month old government completes its over 3 year remaining office term,” asserted the official.

Though the second cabinet expansion was due to take place a week after the by-election results on December 9, Shah’s pre-occupation with the winter session of Parliament where the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed with other bills, made Yediyurappa postpone it further as the inauspicious Dhanurmasa set in December third week.

“The Chief Minister will meet Shah in New Delhi early next week (January 13-14) to finalise the list of prospective ministers for induction by January 17, as he is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland from January 21-24 to showcase the investment opportunities in the southern state,” Madhusudhana said.

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The cabinet expansion will also enable Yediyurappa to distribute most of the portfolios he and some of the ministers are holding due to 16 vacancies since they were inducted in August.

“The cabinet expansion will also enable the Chief Minister to prepare the state budget for the ensuing fiscal (2020-21) in consultation with all the ministers and their department officials for its presentation on March 5,” he added.

The state legislature will begin its first session of 2020 on February 17 with an address by Governor Vajubhai Vala to the joint session of the Assembly and Council members and the budget session will commence on March 2.

Yediyurappa, 76, became the BJP Chief Minister for the fourth time on July 26 and won vote of confidence in the Assembly on July 29 after the 14-month JD-S-Congress coalition government fell on July 23 following the defeat of its chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s confidence motion due to lack of majority in the lower House.

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