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Home > 2021 > A statusquoist ministry takes shape in Karnataka | P S Jayaramu

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 34, New Delhi, August 7, 2021

A statusquoist ministry takes shape in Karnataka | P S Jayaramu

Saturday 7 August 2021


by P. S. Jayaramu

August 5, 2021

Though the appointment of the new Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, as the Chief Minister of Karnataka was announced in quick time after the resignation of Yediyurappa, the constitution of the new ministry took a week, with Bommai being made to undertake two visits to meet the party high command. This delay was unnecessary as the new ministers should have been allowed to take up the pressing works arising out of floods in several parts of the state and the increasing covid 19 cases again.

After several rounds of negotiations with the central leaders, Bommai was allowed to announce his ministry ( portfolios of new ministers is not yet announced at the time of writing) with the swearing in ceremony taking place on 4th. There were expectations that the BJP central leadership would herald a new beginning in state politics, but such hopes have been dashed at the altar of real politics. The same is evident from the fact that caste has played a dominant role in the appointment of ministers. The same is seen from the inclusion of 9 ministers belonging to the powerful Lingayat community into the government apart from the CM himself representing the community. The presence of 7 members from the other powerful Vokkaliga community and11 members belonging to OBC, SC and ST communities and 2 Brahmins in the new ministry goes further to underscore the criticality of caste in Karnataka politics.

That the high command thought it politically and electorally beneficial to appease the former C M Yediyurappa is demonstrated by the fact that 23 of his former colleagues have been brought back to the new government, with some of them allegedly facing corruption charges. The BJP’s central leadership’s game plan is to appease BSY by utilising his services to win a comfortable majority for the party in the 2023 assembly elections to entrench itself in state politics. Maybe, the central leadership would use BSY as it’s state election mascot to win back 24-25 seats in the Lok Sabha polls of 2024 and then ask Yediyurappa to retire from active politics, by which time he would be in his early 80s.

Another important factor to be recounted is that the high command decided this time round not to appoint any deputy chief minister, reportedly much against the desire of Bommai, as it does not want any new power centre to emerge. This will, in any case, help Basavaraj Bommai to establish his primacy in the council of ministers. There is perhaps a realisation that Yediturappa might remain informally a power centre, which should not be allowed to happen. His younger son Vijayendra has not been inducted into the ministry. The Party President Nadda seems to have pacified Yediyurappa by dangling g a carrot that Vijayendra would be taken to the government if he wins one of the by-elections scheduled for sometime later. Bommai would do well to keep the Yadiyurappa family’s interference in the administration, which not only brought down BSY from power but also detested by the people.

On the whole, it is clear that unlike in other BJP ruled states, the high command has opted for continuity of, (as I had already predicted in an earlier article), for status quo oriented caste-based identity politics. A golden chance to make a fresh beginning in democratic politics has been squandered away in the process.

(Author: P. S. Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University, Bengaluru)

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