Fog of uncertainty in Karnataka BJP, no word yet on Cabinet reshuffle

An air of suspense continues to hang over an impending reshuffle in the BJP government in Karnataka following Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state on May 3, which took place amid speculation of the BJP contemplating a “wholesale” change of guard in the state.

Following Shah’s visit, former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa indicated the possibility of a Cabinet change within two to three days, without the chief minister being changed, and set May 10 as a possible date for any change. It was widely expected in the state’s political circles that a decision would be taken on the changes by the BJP central leadership in Delhi and conveyed to the state unit after the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from a tour of Europe on May 5.

Several BJP leaders in Karnataka have said they have not received any hints of the possible changes in the Cabinet but aides of some ministers indicated that a few leaders had set aside plans for travels anticipating the proposed changes in the Cabinet.

The state Cabinet currently has five vacancies against a full quota of 34 ministers. The BJP is also expected to drop non-performers and introduce fresh blood in the run-up to the 2023 state polls. The party is plagued by complaints of corruption and non-performance at present.

The speculation that arose during Shah’s visit about the BJP contemplating a change in the chief minister has also not died out even as Bommai works overtime to implement Budget proposals. “I have not received any call from Delhi on the cabinet changes yet,” Bommai said on Saturday. The CM is scheduled to travel to London and Davos from May 18 to 26 and has reportedly obtained a clearance from the BJP leadership.

Bommai, meanwhile, held a lengthy discussion with Union Minister Pralhad Joshi on Saturday during the Union minister’s brief visit to Bengaluru from Delhi. Joshi has been a link between Bommai and the BJP central leadership since Bommai became the CM in July 2021.

“There has been no indication of any changes yet. Till the Cabinet reshuffle takes place nothing can be said,” said a senior BJP leader. There have been suggestions in the government and BJP circles that a Union minister from Karnataka who is familiar with the expectations of the BJP at the national level could be vested with key responsibilities in the run-up to the 2023 elections.

Meanwhile, the former chief minister Yediyurappa travelled to Dubai over the weekend to attend a private Lingayat community event. Yediyurappa is keen on facilitating the ascendancy of his younger son BY Vijayendra in the BJP amid reluctance in some sections of the party. Vijayendra organised a massive Lingayat rally in April to mark the birth anniversary of Lingayat seer Shivalinga Sway of the Siddaganga Mutt. The event was attended by Amit Shah.

The Lingayat community is considered central to the fortunes of the BJP in Karnataka. Yediyurappa has indicated that he is willing to work under the leadership of anyone the party high command chooses.

The speculation of the BJP high command contemplating changes in the Karnataka government arose last week after the BJP’s national organisation secretary BL Santhosh told a party meeting that the BJP had the strength to carry out big changes, unlike other parties. “I am not saying that this will happen everywhere but the BJP is able to make decisions that cannot even be envisaged by other political parties. Due to the confidence and will in the party, these decisions are possible and in Gujarat when the chief minister was changed the entire Cabinet was also changed. This was done with the intent to infuse freshness and not because of any complaints,” said the BJP leader considered to be opposed to the dominance of Yediyurappa in Karnataka BJP.

Since Shah’s visit, Bommai has been holding back-to-back meetings with state officials to implement schemes proposed in a Budget he presented last month. On Sunday, he held a meeting with all district officials.

“Bommai has been tense since the visit by Amit Shah. Nothing happened during the visit but he is still tense,” BJP MLA and former minister Basavaraj Patil Yatnal, who aspires to be part of a new Cabinet formulation, said last week at a public meeting. He also suggested that some people had proposed to make him the CM if he paid Rs 2,500 crore.

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