After BBMP, will Lingayats get preference during Cabinet expansion?
Bengaluru, Sep 29: After sailing through BBMP election for the Mayoral post, the Congress-JDS coalition government has a task cut out in the month of October. The much-awaited Cabinet expansion is likely to happen in the first of October.
No doubt, victory in BBMP Mayoral elections is a witness to the successful political jugalbandi. What stands apart is Congress' decision to field Lingayat candidate for the Mayoral post in BBMP. Gangambike Mallikarjun, a Jayanagar corporator, against BJP's Shobha Anjanappa. JDS corporator Ramila Umashankar was elected as Deputy Mayor.
Congress justified the preference given to Lingayat candidate, saying no Lingayat candidate was elected as BBMP mayor earlier, now the community got justice. No doubt, it is a good move by the grand old party, however, only ministerial berth allocations will tell whether fielding Lingayat for Mayor post is a one-off decision or has the party renewed its interest in the community ahead of Lok Sabha polls.
Currently, the Congress has 22 of the 34 cabinet berths, as well as the post of deputy chief minister. JD(S) has 12 ministerial posts, including that of the chief minister. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has multiple portfolios. The caste wise allocation of portfolios is : Vokkaliga-9, Lingayat-4, SC-4, ST-1, Muslim-2, Kuruba-2, Christian-1, Reddy-1, Ediga-1, OBC-1, Brahmin-1.
With nine ministers in the cabinet, the coalition government has the image of 'Vokkaliga-dominant government'. But, more than JDS which is sway over old Mysuru region, Congress' image takes a beating if Cabinet expansion doesn't go smoothly.
Next month, as the Congress, gears up to induct six MLAs (JDs only one) the caste calculations once again going to haunt the party. The Congress has to watch its steps so that disgruntled MLAs, especially Lingayat/Veerashaiva community leaders, should not join hands with BJP veteran BS Yeddyurappa who is reportedly trying to destabilise the coalition government.
So, will Congress give priority to Lingayats? Or will it stick to OBC, minority, Ahinda ( Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes, and Dalit) formula?
Meanwhile, former chief minister Siddaramaiah's opinion does matter in the present political scenario. After a brief tussle with CM HD Kumaraswamy, Siddaramaiah's position has improved in the coalition politics. For instance, Siddaramaiah has been entrusted with guarding Congress MLAs against BJP tactics and Nazeer Ahmed backed by Siddaramaiah was elected to Legislative Council. This shows the former CM has sway over party decisions.
If Siddaramaiah favours Linagayat MLAs the Cabinet expansion will be a cakewalk. And if he backed OBC, Dalit or minority MLAs another round of dissent is writing on the wall.
On the other hand, MB Patil and BC Patil prominent Lingayat MLAs are aspiring for Cabinet berths. MB Patil, the man behind the movement for separate region status for Lingayat, was dropped in the first round of cabinet expansion. It is well known that actor-turned-politician BC Patil was lured by the BJP when Yeddyurappa was galvanising numbers to prove majority.
Congress knows very well that Lingayats are with the BJP, however, this fact should not be an excuse to ignore Lingayat quota in the Cabinet. If they squander away this opportunity Yeddyurappa knows how to encash this political blunder. Also, if the discontent continues this may prove costly for the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Choosing Lingayat for BBMP post is a good move by the Congress but that will not influence the community in the North Karnataka where it is strongly backing BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP. To regain its strength in North and Bombay Karnataka Congress has to induct Linagayat MLAs by taking Siddaramaiah into confidence.