Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with Congress parliamentary party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi.
Bengaluru: The much-awaited formation of the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka shows that the “high command culture” of the Congress party with the Gandhi family calling the shots has reduced the role of the Chief Minister to a ‘glorified manager.’
While picking 24 persons to the state cabinet amidst intense lobbying by the MLAs, it appears that three central leaders, including party president Mallikarjun Kharge along with deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar have had a greater say than chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Though AICC general secretary Randeep Surjewala claimed that, “We had given full power to the chief minister to select his Cabinet, He only consulted us,” it is clear from the list that Siddaramaiah played a minor role in the selection as a price for getting the “top prize.”
While party seniors like RV Deshpande, TB Jayachandra and HY Meti, all Siddaramaiah’s candidates failed to get a nod to enter the Cabinet, Shivakumar managed to push through most of his supporters including Cheluva Narayanaswamy, Laxmi Nimbalkar, Satish Jarkhiholi with plum portfolios. Shivakumar also bagged the most ‘lucrative’ Irrigation and Bengaluru Development departments for himself.
G Parameshwara, who was one of the contenders for the CM’s post, was entrusted with Home. Siddarmaiah’s staunch backers, KJ George, who had managed Home last time, had to be content with Energy, Ramalinga Reddy with the loss-making Transport department, HK Patil with a minor portfolios like Tourism and Law and Dinesh Gundu Rao with the lowly Health ministry.
It appears that Kharge not only ensured Cabinet berths to four or five of his supporters, his son, Priyank Karge got the plum Urban Development, besides pushing for IT and BT ministries, which is being sought by 8-time MLA, Ramaliga Reddy as well.
Those who missed the bus despite hectic lobbying included Ajay Singh, son of former CM Dharam Singh, BK Hariprasad, one-time darling of the high command, Vinay Kulkarni and Saleem Ahmed. Laxman Savadi, who made a last-minute switch from BJP and pulled a large section of Lingayat votes was left high and dry as there was no one to lobby for him.
The Congress party tried to ‘balance’ the demands of various castes and communities – a pre-requisite in Karnataka’s politics – by selecting eight Lingayats, six Vokkaligas and six SC/STs and two each Kurubas, Muslims and Christians.
The Cabinet exercise has left a lot of bitterness around in the 135-member Assembly, but it may erupt after a ‘honeymoon period’ of about three months.
Meanwhile, the opposition BJP and JD(U) have begun to up the ante for the ruling Congress by rousing the people against its failure to implement the “five guarantees” which it had promised to around five crore voters “from the very first Cabinet after government formation.”
Former chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and JD(S) HD Kumaraswamy have strongly criticised the government’s move to attach “conditions” for the implementation of the guarantees by excluding large sections of people. They have given a call to the people to refuse to pay electricity bills from June 1 as 200 units were supposed to be free and told women not to buy tickets while travelling in government buses as they were supposed to have “free ride” without any restrictions.
It appears that the political situation in Karnataka may begin to heat up by the time the government presents its new budget in June and whether the Congress will be able to implement its guarantees or seek their indefinite postponement.