Bengaluru: The Karnataka government went in for a major revamp on Sunday, sacking 14 out of the 34 sitting ministers. The evening also saw the swearing-in ceremony of 13 replacement ministers at the Raj Bhavan, while wide protests erupted across the state by Congress workers and supporters of ministers who were sacked.

After marathon meetings with senior Congress leaders including party president Sonia Gandhi over the past two days in New Delhi, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah had said the long-awaited revamp exercise would take place on Sunday.

Of the 13 new ministers to whom governor Vajubhai Vala administered the oath of office and secrecy on Sunday, nine were given cabinet rank and four were given minister of state position. Five of them are debuting as ministers.

The portfolios of the new ministers are yet to be decided.

The exercise is to inject “more dynamic members" into the ministry and to eject some of the non-performing and controversial ministers, the Press Trust of India reported on Sunday. The move is also aimed at putting the party on a sound footing two years before the assembly elections in May 2018, Congress leaders told PTI.

Karnataka, apart from being the only state in south India where the Congress is in power, is also the only big state where the party is ruling across India.

From a national perspective, the 2018 assembly election in the state could decide if the Bharatiya Janata Party’s wish for a Congress-free India would bear fruit even before the next general elections in 2019.

The new cabinet ministers include former assembly speakers Kagodu Thimmappa and Ramesh Kumar, whereas the new ministers of state include Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s son and member of legislative assembly (MLA) Priyank Kharge.

However, instead of making the government and the party more strong, the reshuffle may have just intensified infighting within the Congress party.

At least six districts including Bengaluru saw violence as Congress supporters of the sacked ministers took to the streets. In Bengaluru, local news channels showed Congress workers trying to block the metro station in Vijayanagar in support of MLA M. Krishnappa. The metro operation was disrupted for a while.

In Gulbarga, officially known as Kalaburagi district, news channels showed supporters of Congress leader Qamarul Islam torching a motorcycle before the Congress office and vandalizing the premises. Protesters also blocked National Highway 212 at Nanjangud in Mysore.

“Given the intensity of infighting within the Congress, a reshuffle may leave more disgruntled and very few satisfied," Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, had said in an earlier interview with Mint.

The reshuffle, or at least its scale, was opposed by other senior leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge, but Siddaramaiah stuck to his stand of going for “a major surgery", said a Congress legislator who was privy to the discussions. “Those who are left out are not happy and they will not be so silent about it," he said.

However, the chief minister categorically denied any difference of opinion within the party. “There is no dissidence within the party," Siddaramaiah told reporters on Sunday.

The new cabinet ministers are: Tanveer Sait, Kagodu Thimmappa, Ramesh Kumar, Basavaraj Raya Reddy, H Y Meti, S S Mallikarjun, M R Seetharam, Santosh Lad and Ramesh Jarkiholi.

The new ministers of state are: Priyank Kharge, Rudrappa Lamani, Eshwar Khandre and Pramod Madhwaraj.

The sacked ministers are: Qamarul Islam, Shamanoor Shivashankarappa, V. Srinivasa Prasad, M.H. Ambareesh, Vinay Kumar Sorake, Satish Jarkiholi, Baburao Chinchansoor, Shivaraj Sangappa Tangadagi, S.R. Patil, Manohar Tahasildhar, K Abayachandra Jain, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Kimmane Ratnakar and P.T. Parameshwar Naik.

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