Congress and JD(S) in the throes of Cabinet formation

Parties are struggling to get the caste arithmetic right

Published - May 21, 2018 10:46 pm IST - Bengaluru

Berth pangs:  H.D. Kumaraswamy, G. Parameshwara and other new MLAs in Bengaluru.

Berth pangs: H.D. Kumaraswamy, G. Parameshwara and other new MLAs in Bengaluru.

With Cabinet formation next on its agenda, the Congress-Janata Dal(S) alliance in Karnataka is coming under various pulls and pressures in nominating Ministers. The most important factor is the controversy surrounding the Siddharamaiah government’s decision to recommend “religious minority” status to the Lingayat community. After setting the electoral discourse, the issue is casting its shadow over negotiations for Cabinet formation as well.

While it is nearly certain that one Deputy Chief Minister’s post will go to a Dalit (most likely G. Parameshwara from the Congress), the demand for a second such post for a Lingayat/Veerashaiva is posing problems.

The Akhil Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has made the demand and named its senior-most leader, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, an octogenarian, for the post. Former Minister M.B. Patil, who led the movement for minority status, too is in the reckoning. His candidature is being opposed by some leaders on the ground that he tried to “split the community” by championing the cause.

On Monday, 16 Lingayat/Veerashaiva Congress MLAs decided to seek the post and a “sizeable” number of Cabinet berths for the community. “Of the total 221 MLAs elected, 58 are from the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community. Of them, 16 are from the Congress and four from the JD(S),” a senior member of the Veerashaiva Mahasabha told The Hindu . “Elevation of a community member to the Deputy Chief Minister’s post will offset the community’s perception of the Congress as the party that ‘divided’ it and the Congress-JD(S) alliance pulling down the B.S. Yeddyurappa (a Lingayat) government,” a senior Congress leader said.

Vokkaliga demand

With Janata Dal(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy designated to be Chief Minister, Vokkaliga leaders in the coalition, which has 34 MLAs (22 from the JD[S] and 11 from the Congress), are keeping their fingers crossed.

While both parties are working hard on maintaining an equilibrium between the two dominant castes, representatives from backward classes are anxious. “With Mr. Siddaramaiah coming from a backward class [kurubas] in the previous government, members from the most backward classes did not get a chance,” a Congress leader said.

Since the JD(S) does not have any Muslim MLA, the Congress may nominate one. The Muslim Political Action Committee too has demanded a Deputy Chief Minister’s post.

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