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Karnataka cabinet: With both sides hard bargaining, state has a govt with no ministers

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After a hard fought battle, Karnataka finally got a government, but ironically it has no ministers in it. The dead-lock over the allocation of portfolios between the Congress and JD(S) continues with no finality on who gets what.

Karnataka cabinet: With both sides hard bargaining, state has a govt with no ministers

With Rahul and Sonia Gandhi abroad, the discussions are being led by Ghulam Nabi Azad who held a series of meetings with Karnataka, Chief Minister, H D Kumaraswamy. The first stumbling block has been the finance portfolio which both parties are keen on keeping.

Kumaraswamy is keen on keeping the finance portfolio with himself as he wants to fulfil the promise of waiving off farm loans. This was part of the JD(S) manifesto, but the Congress had made no such poll promise. During the first meeting, Azad cited to Kumaraswamy instances where the deputy CM in Karnataka has always retained the home portfolio. When Siddaramaiah and B S Yeddyurappa were deputy CMs in 2004 and 2006 respectively, both had held the finance portfolio.

However Kumaraswamy was not acceptable to this demand and even said that he would step down. This led Azad to change his track and he is said to have agreed to the demand. He even conveyed this to Rahul Gandhi on phone. Kumaraswamy made it clear that he was ready to compromise on the other portfolios, but not regarding finance and PWD.

The talks as of now remain inconclusive. Sources say that a final call would be taken only after Rahul and Sonia return to India. Tentatively the final call would be taken before June 4, following which the council of ministers would be sworn in.

For now the two parties have come to an agreement on a couple of portfolios. If the JD(S) decides to bargain harder, then the Congress is likely to ask for a term sharing arrangement. The post of a second deputy CM is also a contentious issue which is likely to be sorted out later.

For now the Cabinet would be expanded in phases. The intention is to get the government running and then sort out the remaining issues later. The first list of portfolios to be allocated would be finance, home, PWD, rural development, Bengaluru development and Panchayat Raj. Tentatively it has been decided that the JD(S) would get to keep the finance and PWD portfolios, while the rest would go to the Congress.

While the Congress seems to be taking time on the issue, the JD(S) on the other hand is on tenterhooks. Many within the party did not expect the Congress to bargain this hard especially when it was they who offered support first. The Congress has done many flips flops since the time it had offered support.

When it become clear that no party had got a clear mandate, it immediate declared outside support to the JD(S). A few hours later, the party said it would be part of the government and Kumaraswamy would be the Chief Minister. The Congress then came up with the demand for a deputy CM which was agreed to by the JD(S).

Following this the party had asked for a second deputy CM's post, which the JD(S) did not agree to.

Following this came a statement from deputy CM, Dr. G Parameshwar who said that there was no commitment from their side about a full term. This gave the clear indication that the Congress wanted the CM's post on a rotational basis.

The tug of war over the allocation of portfolios is expected to continue for a few more days and a clear picture would be available only in the first week of June.

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