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Karnataka cabinet expansion at the earliest: Siddaramaiah

Siddaramaiah

Bengaluru |┬áCongress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Sunday said the much awaited expansion of the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition cabinet in Karnataka would take place “at the earliest”. “We will have to do it (cabinet expansion); we will do it as soon as possible,” he said.

Speaking to reporters in Hubballi, he referred to the ongoing elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and said the party’s state leadership would soon seek Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s time to discuss about the expansion.

“It (expansion) will happen at the earliest…elections are about to end there (in MP and Rajasthan). In between we will seek time to discuss and do it,” the head of the Congress-JD(S) coalition coordination committee said. State Congress Chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara had recently said the cabinet expansion would take place within this month.

The cabinet expansion and appointment of MLAs as heads of boards and corporations that was to take place in October was put on the back burner by the Congress-JD(S) coalition, as the schedule for the November 3 bypolls to two assembly and three parliamentary seats in the state was announced. Several MLAs, especially those from the Congress, who are aspirants for ministerial posts, have been demanding the expansion to be taken up at the earliest.

Some of them, including former Minister M B Patil and senior legislator B C Patil even met Congress General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Vengopal on Saturday to put forward their case.

According to Congress sources, many MLAs feel that this is the right time for cabinet expansion, with the ruling coalition winning two of the three Lok Sabha seats and both the assembly constituencies. This would be the second cabinet expansion since the coalition came to power in May in a post-poll tie-up between Congress and JD(S). Under the power sharing arrangement reached by the two parties, Congress will have 22 ministers and the JD(S) 12. In the earlier exercise on June 6, Kumaraswamy had inducted 25 ministers, taking the ministry’s strength to 27.

However, the lone BSP Minister in the coalition cabinet N Mahesh, who was inducted from JD(S), quit his post in October, citing personal reasons, but said he would continue to support the ruling coalition. There are now six vacant ministerial positions left for the Congress, and two for the JD(S).

The decision to expand the cabinet has come amid speculations that some disgruntled Congress MLAs were still being wooed by the BJP, besides reported factionalism within the party. With the growing number of aspirants and limited ministerial berths in hand, Congress is preparing a list of MLAs to be appointed as heads to boards and corporations,in an effort to prevent any kind of resentment, party sources said.

Responding to a question about Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwaras statement that he was ready to take up the responsibility of Chief Ministership if the high command so desired, Siddaramaiah said the top post was not vacant now. “Parameshwara has said that if given an opportunity he has the capacity to become Chief Minister, but where is it (CM post) vacant now? In Congress, there are several leaders who have the capacity and eligibility to become Chief Minister. “He (Parameshwara) has said that he too is eligible to become Chief Minister. “What is wrong in that? Ultimately it is to be decided by the high command and MLAs,” he added, while noting that the Congress was in the coalition government with JD(S) due to the fractured verdict in the assembly polls.

Also, the chief minister’s post was not vacant, with their alliance partner currently holding the position, Siddaramaiah said. Responding to a question, Patrameshwara on Saturday had said that he was ready to take on the responsibility as chief minister if the high command so wished.

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