Political Pickle

Modi 2.0 : Seniority the criterion to choose ministers from Karnataka

Karnataka was the one state in south India where the BJP completely decimated the opposition with a saffron splash across the state. It was but natural that expectations were high among the MP-elects that a significant number of them would make it to the Union ministry. 

But while selecting his ministers from among the MPs from Karnataka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone strictly by seniority. Clearly when it comes to the big picture, Modi does not think micro, in terms of a regional balancing act.

Which is perhaps why he inducted two MPs – Prahlad Joshi and Suresh Angadi – from the same Mumbai-Karnataka region while giving coastal Karnataka which is a BJP bastion, the cold shoulder. Even though he dropped controversial minister Anant Kumar Hegde, who tried to wriggle out of his comments on Nathuram Godse by saying his Twitter account was hacked, he did not replace him with another MP from the same region. If it was any consolation, he replaced a Brahmin Hegde with a Brahmin Joshi. 

What Modi seems to have gone by is the wealth of parliamentary experience. All three Lok Sabha MPs – Sadananda Gowda, Joshi and Angadi – are four time MPs. All three also have a strong RSS connect. And Nirmala Sitharaman has the experience of handling both Commerce and Defence portfolios in the previous government. She is now Union Finance minister. 

Joshi comes in as Parliamentary Affairs minister, a job Ananth Kumar used to do earlier. Angadi comes in as junior Railways minister while Gowda will handle chemicals and fertilizers, another ministry that Ananth Kumar used to look after. 

But politically, the cabinet formation seems to have put Karnataka state president BS Yeddyurappa in a spot. `The Hindu’ reports that his recommendation to include MP-elect from Udupi-Chkkamaguluru Shobha Karandlaje in the Union ministry was not considered. Karandlaje is a Yeddyurappa loyalist and the former CM endorsed the demand from the BJP Karnataka women wing that as the lone woman MP-elect from Karnataka, she should preside over a ministry in Delhi. Incidentally Karandlaje’s constituency falls in the coastal Karnataka region, like Hegde. 

Given how Sadananda Gowda was demoted in the previous tenure, from the high-profile Railways to Statistics and Programme Implementation, there was hope in the BSY camp that this Vokkaliga will be replaced by another Vokkaliga as in Karandlaje. But to not have any MP from Bengaluru making it to the cabinet would have been bad messaging given how politically significant the Karnataka capital is. 

There is hope however that the next time the cabinet is expanded, more MPs from Karnataka will find space. That’s because with 17 MPs in 2014, the state had five ministers (two of them included in 2016 and 2017). With 25 MPs (in fact, 26 if you also count Sumalatha, the Independent candidate who was supported by the BJP in Mandya) in its kitty this time, they would expect the Karnataka representation to be more.

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