H D Kumaraswamy to expand cabinet tomorrow

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The much awaited expansion of the H D Kumaraswamy-led cabinet in Karnataka, aimed at saving the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, will take place June 14 afternoon, with the induction of two new Ministers expected, official sources said.

Governor Vajubhai Vala will administer the oath of office and secrecy to new members joining the State Council ofMinisters at 1.00 PM at the Raj Bhavan.

Of the total of 34 ministerial positions in Karnataka, Congress and JD(S) have shared 22 and 12 respectively according to the coalition arrangement.

Currently, three posts are vacant, two from the JD(S) and one from Congress. “Only two new Ministers will be inducted into the cabinet tomorrow. One post will be kept vacant, “official sources said.

Independent MLA Nagesh and the lone KPJP MLA R Shankar, who are supporting the coalition, would be sworn-in on Friday, from JD(S) and Congress’ share respectively, to ensure that they don’t side with the BJP, sources added.

Shankar had served as Minister during the initial days of the Kumaraswamy government. He was dropped from the cabinet during the rejig in December last year, following which he, along with Nagesh, sided with the BJP and had written to the Governor withdrawing support to the government.

As the BJP failed in its alleged attempts to topple the coalition and form the government, the two lawmakers subsequently moved closer to the coalition.

There are voices in the coalition parties, especially Congress, against the induction of independents into the cabinet, by raising questions about their loyalty, as also about those loyal to the party not being considered.

Senior Congress leader and former assembly Speaker K B Koliwad, who was defeated by Shankar in Ranebennur, expressed reservations about his induction, calling him”opportunist”. According to reports, Shankar is likely to join Congress on becoming Minister.

Though, JD(S) state President and MLA A H Vishwanath and MLC B M Farooq’s name were doing the rounds for the Minister’spost, the regional party’s leadership is said to have decidedto keep the post vacant for now.

The expansion, originally scheduled for June 12, was rescheduled to Friday as a three-day state mourning was in place due to the death of Jnanpith awardee writer Girish Karnad on Monday.

Routed in the Lok Sabha polls and growing disgruntlement within, the coalition leaders, after a series of negotiations had decided to go in for cabinet expansion by filling in three vacant posts.

According to sources, a cabinet rejig is also on the cards after some time, during which a few ministers will be asked to step down to make way for others, mainly disgruntled legislators.

However, an increasing number of aspirants in the Congress is worrying the coalition leaders, as it may once again lead to disgruntlement and cause disturbance for the smooth functioning of the alliance government.

The coalition leaders fear onslaught by the BJP to destabilise the government, after the saffron party won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state, leaving Congress and JD(S)to share one seat each. A BJP supported independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh had won in Mandya.