Karnataka governor Thawar Chand Gehlot and chief minister Basavaraj Bommai with newly inducted ministers during swearing-in ceremony to form the cabinet at Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru, Wednesday, Aug. 4 (PTI)
BENGALURU: A week after taking over as Karnataka chief minister, Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday expanded his cabinet by inducting 29 ministers. He retained 23 ministers from the 33-member Yediyurappa cabinet - including the lone woman minister - while bringing in six new faces.
The ministers were administered oath of office and secrecy by governor Thaawarchand Gehlot at Raj Bhavan in the afternoon. The sanctioned strength of the state cabinet is 34; the current strength is 30. Bommai said portfolios would be allocated in a day or two.
The much-awaited expansion bears the stamp of former CM BS Yediyurappa as many of those inducted are closely associated with him, including the 10 legislators who joined BJP after quitting the Congress-JD(S) coalition in 2019 and helped the saffron party form the government.
However, contrary to speculation, Yediyurappa's son and BJP vice-president BY Vijayendra failed to make it to the ministry.
"The party's central leaders, including party president JP Nadda and BJP in-charge for Karnataka Arun Singh, have spoken to Yediyurappa and Vijayendra. I can only say his name (Vijayendra's) is not on the list," Bommai told reporters ahead of the oath-taking ceremony.
While two of three former deputy CMs - Govind M Karjol and CN Ashwath Narayana - are part of the new cabinet, the party has decided to do away with the post in what is being seen as a move to strengthen Bommai's hands and curb new power centres.
After the oath-taking ceremony, Bommai held a cabinet meeting in the evening and reiterated that the focus is on tackling Covid-19 as a potential third wave looms large in the state. The cabinet decided to revamp the state's Covid task force with some new members. It was led by Ashwath Narayana.
"The new cabinet will respond to the needs of the people, earn their trust and deliver good governance," Bommai said. Asked about four ministerial berths being vacant, he said cabinet expansion will happen in states and regions left unrepresented will get priority subsequently.
He dismissed the brewing dissent in the party unit, saying BJP is a "national party with a strong leadership". On senior ministers from the previous cabinet being dropped, he said the high command has decided to rope in those with organisational experience for party work.
Prominent omissions from the previous cabinet include Laxman Savadi, S Sureshkumar, Aravind Limbavali, CP Yogeeshwara and Shrimanth Patil. While the cabinet composition appears to balance political and caste equations, regional representation remains badly skewed. The ministry includes 9 Lingayats (including the CM), 7 Vokkaligas, 3 Kurubas, 3 ministers from scheduled castes, 2 each from Brahmin, Billava communities and one from scheduled tribes.
In this make-up, 14 of the 31 districts of the state remain unrepresented, while Bengaluru claims the lion's share of seven ministers. In Yediyurappa's cabinet too, there were seven ministers from Bengaluru.