Three days after taking oath, Karnataka ministers get portfolios


Bangalore : Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar Sunday allotted portfolios to his ministers, three days after forming the cabinet, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party faced fresh trouble from those denied ministerial berths.

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Shettar and BJP leaders have played safe by allotting the same portfolios to 21 ministers who held them in the D.V. Sadananda Gowda government which fell last Wednesday due to dissidence.

The portfolio distribution was delayed because of hectic lobbying by the ministers, backed by the factions they belong to, for plum departments.

The issue was finally resolved late Saturday after Shettar met BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and party senior leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in New Delhi.

However, there seemed to be no respite for either Shettar or BJP from the dissidence rocking the party since it came to power for the first time in the state in May 2008.

A group of around 20 party legislators, upset over denial of ministries, Saturday demanded that Shettar drop from the cabinet “tainted ministers” and also members of the legislative council.

“There are several ministers against whom cases have been registered. Why keep them in the cabinet when our leaders asked B.S. Yeddyurappa to quit when a case was filed against him,” Belur Gopalakrishna, legislator from Shimoga, about 250km north of Bangalore, told reporters here.

The ministers fighting cases of corruption and illegal land deals include V. Somanna (housing), Murugesh Nirani (industries), C. P. Yogeshwar (forests) and C. T. Ravi (education).

Somanna, Nirani and Yogeshwar were ministers in the Gowda cabinet also while Ravi has become the minister for the first time.

Two days back Governor H.R. Bhardwaj told reporters that BJP leaders had ignored his advice to keep out of the ministry legislators facing cases.

Yeddyurappa, BJP’s first chief minister in the state, was forced to quit last July following mining bribery charges. Gowda took over last August but bowed out last Wednesday following a campaign orchestrated by Yedyurappa.

Gopalakrishna and other upset legislators have been meeting under the leadership of former minister G. Karunakara Reddy in Bangalore for the last three days to decide on a strategy to pressure the BJP leadership to accept their demands.

Karunakara, brother of former minister and jailed mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy, told reporters that “all 21 of us will decide what we should do. We are still discussing. We will announce the decision July 18 or 19”.

The assembly session to pass the state budget for 2012-13 is to begin July 19, the day when the voting in the presidential polls will also take place.

There is speculation that these legislators could create problem for the Shettar government if the party does not placate them. The budget has to be passed by July 30.

State BJP chief and one of the two new deputy chief ministers K. S. Eshwarappa said efforts were on to win over these legislators.

He indicated to reporters in Bellary, about 300 kms north of Bangalore, that these legislators will be offered chairmanship of government run corporations and boards.

Shettar, like most of the chief ministers of Karnataka, retained finance and intelligence wing. He will also look after, among several other departments, minority welfare and information technology and biotechnology.

Eshwarappa will hold the revenue department, rural development and panchayat raj, which Shettar looked after in the Gowda ministry.

Another deputy minister R. Ashoka will continue to preside over home and transport departments, the two portfolios he had in the Gowda cabinet.

A Raj Bhavan communique said the governor had allotted the portfolios on the recommendation of the chief minister.