Karnataka CM rejigs ministry

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah
Karnataka, the last big bastion of the Congress, saw its first big Cabinet reshuffle two years ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.

Several non-performers such as Ambareesh, popular actor-turned-politician, V Sreenivasa Prasad, a socialite and Shamanur Shivashankarappa, a veteran legislator, have been dropped in the list of 14 that was arrived by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah after consultations with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. But, the list of 13 ministers sworn in might yield more trouble Siddaramaiah, as not all members in the team he is rebuilding are of his choice.

Priyank Kharge, a young legislator who joins the ministry, is the son of Mallikarjuna Kharge, the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. Kagodu Thimmappa, the 84-year-old Speaker of the Assembly, has been taken in the reshuffle. Siddaramaiah also brought back Santosh Lad, earlier eased out after the Bharatiya Janata Party raised havoc in the Assembly after being named in the iron ore scam.

“If the reshuffle was to build a team that can focus on delivering governance before the elections, it is too late,” says Sandeep Shastri, political scientist and pro-vice chancellor at the Jain University. “But, if it is being done out of compulsion to curb dissent, this will create more trouble.”

Siddaramaiah, who led the party to power three years ago on the back of his backward caste base, has been facing factionalism and dissent from senior ministers such as D K Shiva Kumar, K J George and G Parameshwar. He  repeated the exercise in local elections that demanded his time  at the cost of governance.  There have been corruption scandals against the government and Siddaramaiah himself faces charges of impropriety in taking expensive gifts and allocating contracts to firms owned by his son.

 

In the past six months, Siddaramaiah seems to be focused on governance. Bengaluru, the capital city got Rs 7,200 crore investment earmarked to improve infrastructure such as flyovers and subways, while there have been efforts to expand industry outside of the city. Still, it could be too late.

Bharatiya Janata Party has already brought back B S Yeddyurappa to lead the party in the forthcoming assembly elections in 2018, after the Karnataka High Court dismissed corruption charges against him on technical grounds. Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat and mass leader, had to quit the party after being named by the Lokayukta of receiving bribes to denotify prime land in Bengaluru city.

"It is the last straw for both Siddaramaiah and the Congress Party. If they don't deliver, they are doomed," said Professor Shastri.

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