Almost a month since B.S. Yediyurappa was sworn in as the new Karnataka chief minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be treading the same precarious path as the previous Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) coalition with its decision to induct only a limited number of members into the state cabinet.
“I think about 13-14 people will be inducted," Yediurappa said on Sunday in Bengaluru.
However, the argument that a phase-wise expansion would be better to accommodate aspirations and manage expectations may not hold good for too long and could turn into a challenge as it could make the saffron outfit vulnerable to attacks by the opposition waiting to avenge the collapse of the coalition, according to party leaders and political analysts.
Among other reasons, the limited expansion would help the party fulfill its ‘assurances’ made to the 17 disqualified legislators with whose help the BJP was able to topple the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led coalition.
“It is still like a coalition government as we now have to accommodate the demands of the rebels," said one senior BJP leader, requesting not to be named. With 105 members, the BJP would have to disappoint several of its own to accommodate the demands of the rebels in the government as well as within the party when it decides to back them during the bypolls, leaving room for dissent and continue with the climate of political uncertainty over the state.
A.Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University said without the results of the bypolls, this government will remain like a “stop-gap" arrangement and lend to theories that a mid-term polls is still a possibility.
“The only advantage the BJP has is that there is a weak opposition," he added. The party also has to remain mindful of depending on the rebels and the support of two very oscillating independent legislators as these sections have made it abundantly clear that their loyalties are clearly with power and individual benefit than with ideology.
Incidentally, it was Yediyurappa who has always had to pay the price when such groups had gone rogue on various occasions from 2008-13 and even leading the former’s exit from the party.
“Yediyurappa is now not as powerful as he was in 2008 nor is the BJP central leadership as weak," Narayana adds to point out how Amit Shah has kept most state leaders on a tight leash in its efforts to centralise most of its affairs since 2014.
Though the BJP has no alternative to Yediyurappa at the moment, the party may not be as accommodating of the Lingayat strongman’s demand as they have been in the past.
Yediyurappa does not command the same clout as he was unable to deliver a full majority in the 2018 polls and some factions within the party have also expressed their reservation on the functioning style of the 76-year old.
Amit Shah is also deciding the final list of cabinet ministers that further demonstrates how New Delhi will continue its stranglehold over affairs in Yediyurappa’s government and in Karnataka--a state which it calls the gateway to its larger plans to penetrate deeper into south Indian states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
So far, Yediyurappa has only had a free hand in the transfer of senior officials, overturning key appointments made by his predecessor.
In the opposition, Yediyurappa was also able to attack the coalition’s inability to deliver on promises but now finds himself in the top chair, especially when the state has suffered one of its worst natural calamity in almost half a century and has to bring in funds from the Centre that has refused to loosen its purse strings when it comes to catering to the needs of Karnataka. Yediyurappa also takes over in the middle of a phone tapping scandal, that the state government has now decided to hand over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).