A file photo of Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy
A file photo of Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy

Karnataka alliance mulls cabinet expansion, hopes to bury differences

  • The Congress-JD(S) coalition is likely to induct two independent MLAs into the state cabinet this week
  • The induction of independents will also keep the BJP from increasing its strength in the lower house of the state legislature

Bengaluru: The likely inclusion of two independent legislators—R. Shankar and H. Nagesh—to the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led Karnataka government may end up just temporarily quelling resentment than resolving the threat to the stability of the ruling coalition, senior leaders and party workers say.

The Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), and Congress parties are yet to formalize this proposal but two people aware of the developments said cabinet expansion would be announced later this week.

“The two independents will most likely be accommodated within the JD(S) quota," said one of the two people cited above, requesting not to be named.

The Congress is asking Shankar to formally join the Congress which the independent legislator from Ranebennur had refused earlier, leading to him being dropped from the cabinet in December.

The idea of inducting the two independents into the cabinet would not only prevent the them from withdrawing support to the coalition as they did earlier, but is also a way to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from increasing its strength in the Lower House of the state legislature. But pushing them through the JD(S) quota (after they had formally joined the Congress) has the potential to trigger dissent within the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda-led regional party.

This is not just because it shrinks the chances for senior JD(S) leaders to /join the state cabinet/ but also because the regional outfit would be giving up its share of ministerial berths to solve problems that have mostly emanated from within the Congress.

Though there is a third vacancy, the Congress is yet to decide its candidature. Both Ramesh Jarkiholi and B.C. Patil are front-runners for the berth but the former’s nomination could compound Congress’ problems.

There has been simmering dissent within leaders of the Congress who missed landing ministerial berths in the coalition government.

“If the message is that rebellion will be rewarded, then others who stayed quiet so far will also start," said the second person cited above, requesting not to be named. Though there is no clarity yet on Jarkiholi’s candidature, some people Mint spoke with said he could be accommodated through the JD(S) quota while others said that the induction of the independents would isolate the sugar baron and his grand plan to lead some disgruntled Congress legislators to defect.

After being decimated in the Lok Sabha polls, the two parties are hoping to reconcile their differences and complete the full term in office.

“The expansion may help for the next six months but it depends on how we handle this situation," said a senior Congress leader, requesting not be named.

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