Ministerial scramble in BJP disillusions Karnataka people

By Bhargavi Kerur, IANS,

Bangalore : Two days of scrambling by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators for ministerial berths appears to have shocked people in Karnataka and taken the sheen out of a party that prides itself for its discipline.

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“I am numbed by the ugly show of legislators going around demanding they be made ministers and bringing their supporters to demonstrate outside the homes of party leaders,” said K. Ramaswamy, a 70-year-old retired Karnataka government employee.

Y. Naresh, a 40-year-old ophthalmologist at a leading hospital, said: “We usually see such scenes for tickets to contest assembly or Lok Sabha polls. Looks like the trend is catching up to muscle one’s way into the cabinet!”

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s moves to shuffle ministerial portfolios in Karnataka have led to ugly scenes, with legislators threatening mass resignation and their supporters demonstrating in front of the chief minister’s residence and blocking his car.

Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Goolihatti Shekar even said he was ready to commit suicide if deprived of a ministerial berth. However, the threat did not work and he and two other ministers were dropped by Yeddyurappa Tuesday and six were inducted into his 28-month-old council of ministers Wednesday.

However, the scramble for berths has left a bad taste among the people.

P. Sheetal, 24, a management student, said: “Goolihatti takes the cake for his childish behaviour of threatening suicide if he is dropped from the cabinet. It was uncalled for.”

A 58-year-old homemaker Chhaya R.K. said, “This government proved itself worse than the earlier governments. “The horse-trading they did during ‘operation Kamal’ (wooing Congress and Janata Dal-Secular leaders and rewarding them with ministries) is showing today,” she said. ‘Kamal’ or lotus is the BJP’s election symbol.

Political scientists seem to have anticipated these developments.

G.K. Karanth of the Bangalore-based Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) said the script for this political scenario was written in 2004 when the era of coalition governments began in Karnataka.

“The behaviour of the not-so-young minister (Shekar) shows they want to have a fly-by-night career in politics,” Karanth said.

“This might appear to be a unique situation, but the script for such circumstances was written six years ago. Every government has made the state of affairs worse,” he lamented.

But there are those who think Yeddyurappa is coping well.

“It is an achievement to keep the cabinet going under adversity. Just over a year after coming to power, the Reddy brothers (mine owners and ministers) threatened to bring down the government and Yeddyurappa had to make compromises,” said Raj Sadhwani, a young businessman.

Shiva Prasad, a techie, said: “Twenty-eight months are too short to decide if the BJP is a successful government or not.”

“He has held on, let us hope that in his remaining term, there will stability and better governance,” Prasad said.