Bengaluru: The cabinet expansion in Karnataka to be taken up in the third week of September will be a tightrope walk for the Congress.
The cabinet expansion, aimed at filling six vacant ministerial berths, will leave no room for placating leaders who remain dissatisfied once the exercise is completed.
The consequent dissent that this is likely to generate could jeopardize the ruling coalition between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), in the state.
The Congress hopes that filling up ministerial berths and naming heads of around 20 boards and corporations in its share would quell some of the dissent. However, many party leaders disagree. “Things may go wrong once the cabinet expansion is complete," said a Congress leader, requesting anonymity.
The Congress, which has struggled to contain dissent within its ranks since the formation of the coalition in May, is working out strategies to accommodate disgruntled leaders whose actions have been a major embarrassment to the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led government that is more than three months old.
The Congress got 22 of the 34 cabinet berths, as well as the post of deputy chief minister during the division of power between the two parties. JD(S), meanwhile, got 12 ministerial posts, including that of the chief minister.
As the bigger party, the Congress was forced to make several compromises during cabinet formation, largely by denying cabinet berths to several senior leaders to make room for first-time legislators and those who came from other parties.
These decisions led leaders to openly express their displeasure and rally behind former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who they continue to portray as their “true" leader.
“Rebellion happens when the leaders are weak," the leader mentioned above said, referring to the inability of deputy chief minister G. Parameshwara and state Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao to contain the factionalism.
The party is now being forced to depend on Siddaramaiah, who had been accused of becoming a haven for dissenting voices, to keep the rank and file in check going into next year’s Lok Sabha polls, that the JD(S) and Congress have decided to fight together in Karnataka.
But with Siddaramaiah out of the country, factionalism has returned to haunt the party--led this time by the powerful Jarkiholi brothers of Belagavi. Ramesh Jarkiholi, a minister, has been claiming the support of at least 15 legislators to corner the government in accommodating his brother, Satish.
“Such dissent is common before cabinet expansion," said Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and faculty at Karnatak University, Dharwad. Much of the dissent has been called “posturing", but party leaders and analysts believe that factionalism is harming the party and could hand the advantage to the BJP.