Bengaluru/Hubballi: The Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa who could not get a green signal from the party high command for a cabinet expansion to induct the newly elected party MLAs, has become a villain for pontiffs of many castes and groups besides the newly elected MLAs.
A seer of Panchamasali Lingayat math in Harihar, Sri Vachanananda Swamiji, while addressing a gathering of Panchamsalis, one of the four sub-sects of the Lingayat community, told the chief minister who was present alongside him on the dais that his community would withdraw support to the government if its leaders including one of the BJP MLAs from the community, Murugesh Nirani, was not given a ministerial berth. Irate over the threat at a public place in front of a huge audience, the chief minister had taken the seer to task. Mr Yediyurappa who spoke after the pontiff made the threat, set off a storm by offering to quit if pontiffs continued to make such threats.
The video, which went viral within no time opened the doors for the Opposition Congress party to ridicule the chief minister. Among the Lingayats who constitute nearly 16 per cent of the state's population, the sub-sect Panchamsalis dominate, with their share being over 40-50 lakh within the Lingayat bloc. It was this that saw the young pontiff who ascended to the post two years back, show the audacity to demand at least three cabinet berths for MLAs from the panchamsalis sect, insiders said.
Only days ago, Sri Jagadguru Valmiki Prasannananda Swami of Rajanahalli Valmiki Gurupeetha, another pontiff of scheduled tribes spoke in a similar tone and said one of the leaders from his community should be made deputy chief minister.
Mr Yediyurappa however has tried to get an appointment with party national president Amit Shah to finalise the date for cabinet expansion.
To date however he has received no positive response from Delhi, according to party sources. Now, the chief minister is hoping to end this imbroglio on January 17 and 18, when Mr Shah is scheduled to visit Karnataka to take part in various programmes including a massive pro-CAA rally in Hubballi on Saturday.
The Panchamsali Lingayat seer’s statement seems to have caused a rift among BJP leaders as a few of them contended that Nirani was the prime mover and shaker behind the threat given by the seer. Vijayapur MLA and former Union minister Basanagouda Patil Yatnal has publicly launched a broadside against the former industries minister. “Murugesh Nirani has not done anything except setting up of few factories of his own when Yediyurappa had earlier assigned industrial portfolio to him. The seers should stop threatening the chief minister over allotment of ministerial berth. It is not good to issue such a threat to the chief minister as he serves the people like a King,” said Yatnal, who also belongs to Panchamasali sect of the Lingayat community.
Murugesh Nirani meanwhile has claimed that he is a strong contender for the ministerial post, insisting that his long list of achievements as industries minister saw him set up a global investors meet and separately generate over 70,000 jobs in the state.
He also lashed out against Yatnal who had accused him of paying the Panchamasali seer to issue a statement to push the CM to give him a ministry.
“There is nothing wrong in Panchamasali seer's statement demanding ministerial berth for the community. His appeal has been misconstrued as a threat,” Murugesh Nirani said, adding however that "it was the prerogative of the chief minister to decide who should be inducted into the Cabinet."
Meanwhile, the newly elected MLAs seem to be growing restless over the delay in expansion. Mr M.T.B. Nagaraja, K. Gopalaiah and other new BJP MLAs who have given the party the stability in the state, have been meeting the chief minister and demanding that the cabinet expansion be done at the earliest. One of the newly elected MLAs, on condition of anonymity, said that though they had not come out in the open to express their displeasure, the nervousness of the BJP not giving importance to them in the future was an issue of mounting concern....