Three Deputy CMs for Yediyurappa is a pointer to the future in Karnataka
Andhra Pradesh has five, Karnataka now has three. Like the YSR Congress party, the ornamental rank of Deputy chief ministers has been used by the BJP as a carrot to please more communities. For the party whose support base has been seen as Lingayat, conferring the Deputy CM rank on a SC and Vokkaliga minister will help it make inroads into the votebank of both the Congress and the JD(S).
Govind Karjol from the SC community, CN Ashwathnarayana from Vokkaliga and Laxman Savadi from Lingayat community are the three deputy chief ministers in BS Yediyurappa’s cabinet. The chief minister will have reason to be both pleased and unhappy with the decision, seen to be taken at Delhi’s behest. Pleased because none of the senior ministers like Eshwarappa, R Ashoka or Jagadish Shettar have been made deputy CMs. Unhappy because this is an indication of how things may pan out in a couple of years.
The criticism against the Karnataka BJP over the years has been that it has been too Yediyurappa-centric. Not surprising considering BSY has been the tallest leader of the party with a pan-Karnataka appeal. With the CM already 76, the BJP High command wants to prepare the ground for a new leadership taking charge by the time the next elections are due in 2023. Hence the choice of Deputy CMs, especially Savadi and Ashwathnarayana.
The BJP has rewarded ministers like Ashwathnarayana and Savadi for the role they played in the run-up to the Trust vote in Karnataka assembly. Savadi could be the man to watch out for because Delhi has made him not just Transport minister but also deputy CM. This despite the taint of allegedly being caught watching porn in the Karnataka assembly a few years ago and losing the 2018 assembly election from Athani. Savadi will have to become an MLC within six months now.
Ashwathnarayana as the suave urban face of the BJP from Bengaluru would be seen as a potential successor to Ananth Kumar, whose demise created a vacuum as far as leadership in Bengaluru went.
The buzz from Bengaluru all of last week suggested that the delay in allotting the portfolios was because Yediyurappa was not keen on having these many deputy CMs. The fact that the appointments finally happened, is an indication that Delhi had its way.
While supporters of former deputy chief ministers Ashoka and Eshwarappa are openly sulking, one person who too would have reason to be unhappy would be B Sriramulu. During the 2018 assembly election campaign in Karnataka, the Valmiki community leader was spoken of as the Deputy CM if the BJP came to power. He was also drafted to fight Siddaramaiah from Badami in Mumbai-Karnataka region. He is now Health minister of Karnataka.