The long-awaited expansion of Karnataka cabinet may take place on January 13, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said Sunday night after returning to Bengaluru from Delhi. Earlier in the day, Yediyurappa had an hour-long meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda and party general secretary in-charge for the state Arun Singh.
“Around six to seven ministers will be inducted. The list will be finalised on Monday. We will probably have the induction on January 13 ahead of Sankranti festival. We want the BJP national president to attend the swearing-in,” Yediyurappa said after his arrival in Bengaluru. “There are some differences on the names that will be finalised. We will announce it tomorrow,” he added.
Earlier in the day, asked about the reshuffle, Yediyurappa told reporters in Delhi, “The party leaders will give good news soon. I have discussed the political situation in the state. The party leaders asked me to send a list of party candidates to Belagavi Lok Sabha, Basavakalyana and Maski Assembly bypolls.”
The state, which can have a total of 34 ministers, has 27 now. Besides representatives from different factions and the old guards, the Chief Minister would have to accommodate some of those who entered the Assembly through recent bypolls. The aspirants include BJP MLCs A H Vishwanath, R Shankar and M T B Nagaraj, whose resignation as MLAs in the previous Cong-JD(S) combine brought the government down and paved the way for the BJP coming to power, said sources. As many as 11 out of the 17 Congress and JDS rebels have already been inducted in the cabinet.
Bid to boost strength
Although Yediyurappa has always enjoyed the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his rivals in state BJP have recently intensified their demand for a replacement at the top post. The CM wants to strengthen his position by inducting some leaders of his choice into his government. Amit Shah’s presence in Sunday’s meeting is being seen as a positive signal from the BJP leadership in favour of Yediyurappa.
Sources close to the Chief Minister said there have been fresh moves by his rivals in the party to “unseat” him. However, the central leadership, sources said, was of the view that the 78-year-old is the best bet for the party as there is no one else in the Karnataka unit to match his popularity.
Yediyurappa’s son B Y Vijayendra had accompanied him to Delhi. While some of Yediyurappa’s rivals had labelled him “super CM”, the central leadership has appointed him as vice-president of state BJP.
While his rivals have been mobilising leaders against the veteran, he has been playing his cards carefully. Recently, when the central leadership stalled his plan to grant backward castes status to Lingayats, the community he belongs to and his key support base, the Chief Minister told the media that he would do it after the central leadership gives a green signal.
Meanwhile, a section of party leaders are talking about the possibility of a leadership change. The BJP leadership, they argue, could make some offers to Yediyurappa, including a suitable position for him and a Union Minister berth for one of his sons, in exchange of him allowing a change of guard.
“No clear plans have been drawn up yet about a leadership change. There has to be a plan to rehabilitate Yediyurappa before anything is done since he is a mass leader,” a BJP legislator stated two months ago.
Recently, BJP in-charge Singh had stated that no leadership change is on the cards, but party MLA Basavaraj Patil Yatnal had said the central leadership is considering a change of guard. On Sunday, Yatnal said big changes are likely after Sankranti but did not elaborate.