Karnataka Cabinet expansion: CM awaits message from Congress

Belagavi: With two days left for the much awaited expansion of his cabinet, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy Thursday said he was waiting for a “message” from his coalition partner, the Congress party, to write to the Governor about carrying out the exercise.

“I’m yet to receive message from Delhi (Congress high command),” Kumaraswamy said in response to a question about writing a letter to the governor for the cabinet expansion exercise. Speaking to reporters here, he said, “Soon after our senior coalition partner (Congress) gives us the message, I will write to the governor.”

Seeking to contain simmering discontent within the party over cabinet expansion, the Congress on Tuesday had said the Congress-JD(S) coalition ministry would be expanded on 22 December as announced earlier.

Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, Pradesh Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao and Deputy chief minister G Parameshwara left for Delhi this evening to meet the Congress high command, including general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal, to discuss the expansion and the probable names.

According to sources, they are expected to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi during the visit. However, reports suggest that Gandhi was in Shimla on a personal visit. Asked whether the cabinet expansion would take place on 22 December, the Chief Minister said, “please ask Congress party.”

“There are no issues with us (JDS)… we are ready for it. They (Congress leaders) too have gone to Delhi with an intention to expand the cabinet.” Rao had on Tuesday indicated that it may be cabinet expansion or reshuffle or both may happen on 22 December, creating worry among several ministers about being dropped from the ministry.

Kumaraswamy, on his part, did not spell out anything clearly to a question, whether it will be cabinet reshuffle on Saturday. Pointing out that the Congress was the major party in the coalition, Kumaraswamy said, whatever they decide,” accordingly we will carry out the exercise.”

“There is no problem within our party (JDS), we are all united…the vacant posts that are there we will fill them, we are ready, there are no issues within us,” he added. With the cabinet expansion exercise being postponed repeatedly, several aspirants, especially those from the Congress, had openly expressed their displeasure.

Despite repeated reiteration by Congress leaders that the expansion will take place on the scheduled date, party MLAs are sceptical about it happening till the Lok Sabha polls early next year. Some of them have also cited the current “Shoonya Masa” that is considered inauspicious month, as the reason.

According to the pact reached between the two partners at the time of formation of the coalition government in May, there are now six vacant ministerial positions left for the Congress and two for the JD(S). This will be the second expansion of the Kumaraswamy’s ministry, who currently heads the 26-member cabinet.

Along with cabinet expansion, the coalition partners are also likely to appoint MLAs as heads to boards and corporations, and as parliamentary secretaries to Ministers on 22 December.