Bengaluru: Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa is facing intense heat over cabinet expansion as impatience is growing among the aspirants. Several of them had defected from the Congress to the BJP in August 2019 thereby ensuring collapse of the Congress-JDS coalition Government and its replacement by the BJP administration. Several of the legislators have landed in Delhi to urge the BJP High Command to bring about pressure on the CM to induct them.
Utter confusion prevails within the State BJP as there are also rumours of Yeddiyurappa being replaced by a new leader. This has led to flurry of activity with Yeddiyrappa hastily appointing his acolytes as chairmen of boards and corporations. There have also been changes among the CM’s advisors. The CM’s move to include the Veerashaiva-Lingayats in the Central OBC list was stalled in the nick of the moment as dissidents mounted pressure on the High Command to rein in the Chief Minister. Following this, Home Minister Amit Shah reportedly rang up Mr. Yeddiyurappa asking him to put the decision on hold.
The grapevine has it that most of the moves by the CM are prompted by feelers that he may not be in the seat for long and marching orders are imminent. At 78, Mr. Yediyurappa has survived enough past the retirement of age of 75 years that the BJP has been following. It is not difficult to see that the haste in initiating the recent measures is mainly motivated by his desire to do the maximum benefit to the community to which he belongs. Constituting 17% of the State population, Lingayaths however rule the roost in power structure of the State. Of the 19 chief ministerial tenures in the State, members of the community had occupied the seat 13 times. A little less than one-third seats in the State Assembly are held by the Lingayath legislators. The community individuals represent a third of the posts in the top bureaucracy in the State. Yet the hunger for greater representation in the power corridors has remained undiminished. Tag of winning the ‘all-time great CM’ within the community seems to have been behind the inspiration to shower the sops on the community.
Pressure for reserved quota
Expansion of the cabinet is proving to be a pain in the neck for the CM. He had been promising induction of the long-time aspirants after the by-election results on November 10. But it remains unfulfilled even three weeks after the BJP bagged both the seats for which by-polls were held on November 3. One of the winners—Munirathana from R. R. Nagar within the Bengaluru urban districts—has also been the hot favourite for a cabinet post. Besides several other defectors who won their seats in December 2019 by-polls have been endlessly waiting for a berth in the cabinet. Party MLC A. H. Vishwanath belonging to the Kuruba community has also been pressing for his induction in the cabinet reminding the CM that of the 15 defecting MLAs, four were from Kuruba community. Some members have alleged that delay in cabinet expansion has led to groupism within the State BJP with ‘migrant MLAs’ (read defecting MLAs) coming together to exert pressure for maximum allocation of berths to those who made sacrifices to see the installation of the BJP Government.
Inclusion of Veerashaiva-Lingayath among the OBCs too has been a longstanding demand from the seers of the Community mutts in the State which wield considerable clout in decision-making within the State. Sixteen sub-castes of the community are currently considered the OBC. But seers and other community leaders are urging the community to include as a whole with the OBC category. A prominent mutt chief has even threatened protest if the community was not included in the 2A category for reservation in the State. In the State, Lingayaths are included in 3B category which applies to those living in rural areas thereby allowing 5% quota within the state.
Earlier this month, CM’s decision to constitute Veerashaiva-Lingayath Board has been criticized by rival parties. Former CM H. D. Kumaraswamy wanted a similar board for the Vokkaliga community. Vishwanath too has demanded a development corporation for the Kuruba community.
There has been reshuffle among the CM’s private staff with political and media secretary putting in their papers from the posts. His political secretary N. R. Santhosh was rushed to a hospital after a suspected bid to commit suicide. Santhosh is grandson of CM’s sister. Earlier this month another of CM’s media advisor Mahadeva Prakash resigned from his post. Prior to that, another political advisor M. B. Maramkal was removed from his post.
The fast-paced developments in the State BJP signal tightening of noose around Yediyurappa as a group of party legislators are camping in Delhi to seek High Command’s assurance and approval for their induction thereby inviting Centre’s intervention in State party affairs.
M A Siraj is senior journalist based in Bengaluru. He writes for several publications in the country