Expansion of the Karnataka cabinet would take place on June 12, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy announced on Saturday, in a much expected move to quell growing dissent within the Congress-JD(S) coalition that threatens the stability of its government.
Kumaraswamy made the announcement in a tweet after meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala, which comes after weeks of consultations between the chief minister and Congress leaders amid coalition worries compounded by the Lok Sabha poll rout.
"Today, I met the honourable governor and requested him to give time for the cabinet expansion. He has fixed June 12, Wednesday, 11.30 am to administer oath," Kumaraswamy tweeted.
The cabinet expansion or rejig was in the offing after the humiliating defeat of the Congress and JD(S) in the Lok Sabha election, in which both the parties barely survived the Modi wave, getting one seat each.
The BJP swept the polls, capturing 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, backed by the BJP, won the Mandya seat, defeating Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil in one of the most bitterly fought contests.
The cabinet expansion is seen as a way to contain the rebellion that erupted, specially in the Congress, after the poll debacle, with several senior leaders openly castigating the state leadership.
Of the total 34 ministerial positions in Karnataka, the Congress and the JD(S) have shared 22 and 12 respectively under an understanding between the two parties. Currently, three posts are vacant, two from JD(S) and one from the Congress.
Troubles mounted for the coalition early this week with the JD(S) state chief A H Vishwanath quitting his post flaying the coalition's functioning and two senior Congress MLAs slamming the party's state leaders for the debacle in the general elections.
The Lok Sabha rout gave enough ammunition to the disgruntled lot in the Congress as well as the JD(S) to publicly target their state leaders.
Vishwanath had criticised the coalition government's performance and coordination committee chief Siddaramaiah for failing to draw a common minimum programme for smooth functioning of the government.
Senior Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy had also hit out at the party's state leadership, saying "newbies and migrants", who did not know anything about the Congress, were being given priority in the party and government.
He had warned that if the present situation continued, it would be difficult for seniors to continue in the party.
Reddy's attack had come days after state Congress' Muslim face Roshan Baig's outburst, calling AICC general secretary K C Venugopal a "buffoon", Kartanaka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao a "flop show" and Siddaramaiah "arrogant."
Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi has been allegedly hobnobbing with the BJP for the past few months, amid reports that he might switch sides along with several other legislators.
According to sources, Kumaraswamy, who is also the JD(S) legislature party leader, has discussed with MLAs the issue of cabinet expansion or rejig.
There seems to be worry within the Congress about cabinet expansion or reshuffle with a growing number of aspirants for ministerial berths and that the move might only complicate matters for the coalition.
The spectacular electoral show by the BJP, despite a Congress-JD(S) joint fight, is keeping the coalition on the edge as it fears an onslaught from its opponent to topple the government by luring away its disgruntled MLAs.
Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa has asked the Congress-JD(S) to give up power if it cannot run the government and asserted that his party would govern in case the coalition collapses and would make sure there is no mid-term polls.