Amid talks of cabinet expansion to save the government in Karnataka, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy Saturday met the Congress-JD(S) coalition coordination committee chief Siddaramaiah and held discussions. "Both leaders have met on cabinet issue and have held discussions. Whether it is expansion or reshuffle, it may take place only after June 4," official sources said.
The Congress in Karnataka over the last couple of days had gone into a huddle to avert a potential existential crisis to the one-year-old coalition ministry, and discussed about the possible cabinet rejig to address the dissent within. Kumaraswamy had also held discussions with congress president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.
Coalition leaders were initially unable to reach consensus on whether to go in for cabinet expansion by filling three vacant posts or reshuffle by asking a few ministers to step down and make way for the disgruntled lawmakers. CLP leader Siddaramaiah, however, had indicated that reshuffle was on the cards. According to party sources, there are talks about first filling three vacant posts and then going in for reshuffle if the need arises.
Meanwhile, Independent MLA Nagesh and KPJP MLA R Shankar also met Siddaramaiah on Saturday and held discussions. There are reports that in case of cabinet expansion they are likely to be inducted into the Ministry. During the meeting Siddaramaiah is said to have asked both legislators not to fall pray to any attempts by the BJP to woo them.
On Wednesday reports and pictures of Nagesh and Shankar meeting rebel Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi, who is allegedly hobnobbing with the BJP, had added to the coalition’s worry. Shankar was inducted into Kumaraswamys cabinet, but was subsequently dropped during the reshuffle in December last year, following which both of them had withdrew their support from the government and sided with BJP.
Coalition worries have multiplied after the BJP’s spectacular win with 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in its pocket, leaving a mere one seat each to the Congress and JDS, which, despite a joint fight, were swept away by the Modi wave.
Also, growing unrest within the party and threat by Ramesh Jarkiholi to quit Congress along with other MLAs has worried the leadership as it would trigger a number game in the assembly. The talk about cabinet reshuffle or expansion has also given rise to number of aspirants within the party.
Of the total 34 ministerial positions in Karnataka, the Congress and JD(S) have shared 22 and 12 respectively. Currently, three posts are vacant, two from JD(S) and one from Congress.
However, allaying fears that the BJP was trying to weaken the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka, the saffron party’s state president B S Yeddyurappa ON Friday had said central leaders have asked the state unit not to indulge in any activity to "destabilise" it.