Bengaluru: The Congress on Saturday announced a list of eight names for six Cabinet posts available with the party, raising a storm among those who missed out making the list for the second time. Several leaders came out openly against the decision that was likely to fuel speculation on deepening divides and rumoured defections, bringing back the question of stability of the over six-month-old government led by chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy.

C.S.Shivalli from Kundagol (Dharwad), Thukaram.E from Sandur (Bellary), Satish Jarkiholi from Yemkanmaradi (Belagavi), M.B.Patil from Bableshwar (Vijayapura), Raheem Khan from Bidar, M.T.B.Nagaraj from Hoskote (Bengaluru Rural), Parameshwara Naik from Hadagalli (Ballari) and R.B.Timmapur, a member of the legislative council were among those named.

Of this, three people are from Mumbai-Karnataka, three from Hyderabad-Karnataka and one legislator from south Karnataka were chosen, keeping the party’s promise to give a higher allocation to the northern part of the state, whose legislators had argued for a more equitable distribution of ministerial berths to set right the traditional imbalance skewed to favour the south.

But in trying to craft a balanced representation, the Congress also gave room for ample displeasure among some of its most senior leaders, who were left out yet again. Seven-time legislator from Bengaluru, Ramalinga Reddy was left out and his daughter, also an MLA, declined to accept the Parliamentary secretary post given to her in protest. Hirekerur MLA B.C.Patil, who had likened the delaying of the Cabinet expansion to ‘Killing of democracy and upholding dictatorship’ in October on Twitter, was also left out, drawing sharp reactions from his daughter who expressed her displeasure openly.

Though it was believed that the completion of the much delayed cabinet expansion would end some of the dissent, Mint reported earlier on how filling up the vacancies will leave no room for placating leaders who remain dissatisfied once the exercise is completed. Several supporters protested outside the party office in Bengaluru.

Replacing Ramesh Jarkiholi with his brother, Satish, set tongues wagging with speculation that the former would defect to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). R.Shankar, an independent and first-time legislator who supported the Congress during the trust vote, was also dropped from the Cabinet, giving room for speculation that he too would jump ship.

The BJP, with 104 seats, is just nine seats shy of a simple majority and claims to be in touch with several Congress legislators who have expressed their intent to join the saffron outfit. Having lost three states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh — to the Congress, bagging Karnataka would help the party in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. To be in power in Karnataka would also give the BJP a foothold in south India, where it had little or no representation at all.

But the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) claimed to have thwarted all attempts by the BJP, who the alliance partners say were actively trying to bring down the government. The post-poll allies, which came about after the state’s electorate delivered a fractured verdict in May, also joined hands to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP next year in Karnataka.

The Congress also named M.B.Patil in the Cabinet expansion, which appear to be some kind of reparation with the dominant Lingayat community, who was sidelined after the community was believed to have sided with the BJP in the May elections. Patil was the man leading the demand for a minority religion status for the community, which was later believed to be one of the biggest factors that brought down the Congress government. The Congress and the JD(S) had sidelined all leaders who had led the separate minority religion movement. Already having conceded the Vokkaliga community vote to the JD(S), the Congress appears to making amends with the Lingayats as it cannot solely depend on minorities and the highly fragmented backward classes support base in Karnataka.

There are members each from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Kurubas and one minority and one Lingayat in the eight-member list announced by the Congress.

The Congress also named 18 members to head several boards and corporations as well as seven parliamentary secretaries.

The JD(S) will not be filling up its two vacancies anytime before mid-January, according to people directly aware of the developments.

The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to be held on Saturday evening in Bengaluru.

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