The allocation of portfolios to 17 members in the B.S. Yediyurappa cabinet in Karnataka has opened up a can of worms for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state.
Supporters of various leaders in the state protested against the formation of the ministry on Tuesday. People loyal to K.S. Eshwarappa and B. Sreeramulu took to the streets to protest the ‘injustice’ meted out to their leaders and community. Leaders such as R. Ashok and C.T. Ravi subtly expressed their displeasure over portfolio allocations, an exercise in which the national leadership, particularly BJP chief and Union home minister Amit Shah, is seen to have taken decisions unilaterally.
V. Srinivas Prasad, the BJP member of Parliament from Chamarajanagar, questioned the decision to have three deputies for Yediyurappa but stopped short of criticizing the leadership. Most leaders are wary of attracting the wrath of the party’s national leadership by expressing dissent publicly. This is very different from a decade ago when legislators held the party and government to ransom to get what they wanted.
There is a lot of discontent about the decision to name C.N. Ashwathnarayan and Laxman Savadi as two of the three deputy chief ministers. Ashwathnarayan is a first-time minister. Savadi lost from Athani assembly constituency in 2018, a seat that is now vacant as Mahesh Kumatahalli, formerly with the Congress, has been disqualified along with 16 others for colluding with the BJP and bringing down the coalition government of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), led by H.D. Kumaraswamy. The two leaders had played an important role in shielding the rebels who toppled the Congress-JD(S) government and people see their elevation as the BJP’s grooming of the second rung of leaders to reduce its dependence on the 76-year-old Lingayat strongman, Yediyurappa.
Savadi was forced to resign as minister in 2012 after he, C.C. Patil, who has been named mines and geology minister, and Krishna Palemar were caught watching porn inside the Karnataka legislative assembly.
Savadi’s elevation, in particular, has turned into one of the biggest sore points for influential families in Belagavi district in north Karnataka. He was pushed to end the dominance of Umesh Katti and the Jarkiholis in the region, according to a senior national BJP leader.
“We have no say at all. Everything is being decided by them (the central leadership)," said one BJP legislator, asking not to be named. This indicates how Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are increasingly tightening their grip to centralise powers in the party.
Shah’s decision to do away with traditional considerations such as seniority, influence, and caste equations in the allocation of berths shows the confidence with which the BJP at the Centre is operating, according to analysts.
Yediyurappa, who wielded considerably more influence about a decade ago, now finds himself at the mercy of a leadership that is unwilling to entertain threats, or even suggestions, from the local leadership.
The BJP central leadership’s act of thrusting its decision on Yediyurappa is also an indication of mistrust of a leader who has damaged the party’s prospects in the past at the hint of being sidelined, according to political analysts and party leaders.
Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah said that Yediyurappa was “unwanted" by the BJP and that the dissent within the party will implode and send the flood ravaged state back to the polls.
The BJP only named 17 cabinet members in its first list to accommodate the disqualified legislators who have approached the Supreme Court to overturn the disqualification and allow them to contest the bypolls