With his government facing birth pangs of coalition politics, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Friday stepped in to check the disquiet among newly elected Congress lawmakers who were left out during the cabinet expansion, but they remained defiant.
Kumaraswamy, who was sworn-in as the chief minister on May 23 and proved his majority in the assembly on May 25, has not been able to distribute portfolios to his ministers two days after cabinet expansion, largely due to the tumult among Congress MLAs, some of whom were ministers in the previous government.
The chief minister and several state Congress leaders met these lawmakers, who appeared in no mood to relent, at least not for now, after which Kumaraswamy asked the Congress high-command to act immediately and resolve the situation.
With the ruling coalition in ferment, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar called the Janata Dal(Secular)- Congress government 'directionless and temporary'.
"Even though the people gave the highest number of seats to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in the elections, JD-S and Congress made a backdoor entry to power. This (government) is only temporary," he told a press conference.
"The workers are not happy with the coalition of the two parties which were at loggerheads before the elections. Therefore, the coalition will be short-lived," Kumar said.
Making a desperate bid to set his house in order, Kumaraswamy met M B Patil, who has emerged as the leader of the dissident MLAs, and later told journalists that despite the matter not being directly related to him, he had gone to pacify the legislators as the leader of the JD(S)-Congress coalition to ensure the stability of the government.
"This is an issue that is not related to me because these are decisions made within Congress party... I have understood his (Patil) feeling of pain that he has worked for Congress party when it needed (him), but feels let down now," Kumaraswamy said.
"I have gathered his feelings. I request Delhi leaders (of Congress) to immediately act to find a solution," he said.
Ahead of Kumaraswamy's visit, senior Congress leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister and state Congress chief G Parameshwara, and ministers D K Shivakumar, K J George and R V Deshpande met Patil at his residence to smooth his ruffled feathers.
According to Congress sources, Patil will be travelling to the national capital to discuss the developments with the party high-command.
A group of disgruntled MLAs, including M T B Nagaraj, Satish Jarkiholi, Sudhakar and Roshan Baig, among others, had yesterday met at Patil's residence.
Several such meetings have taken place over the last three days which were attended among others by former minister H K Patil. Meanwhile, Jarkiholi, an All India Congress Committee secretary, said he is contemplating resigning from the party post.
Declaring that he and several other Congress MLAs were unhappy over the Cabinet expansion and are holding talks, Jarkiholi said they will meet again on June 11.
"I'm thinking about resigning as AICC secretary because despite holding that position I could not become a minister nor was able to secure a ministry for others.
"So, people question how I can do justice (to them) and also my strength.... So, as soon as possible, I will come to a decision on this after discussion," he said.
An unappeased M P Patil told reporters that Kumaraswamy's was a 'courtesy call' and that it was an 'internal development' related to the Congress about which he cannot do anything.
Patil said he was not alone and the group will take a collective decision. He also said their effort was to strengthen the Congress.
"About 15 to 20 of us (MLAs) are together, we will take a decision together. Let there be no wrong information. All our efforts are towards strengthening the Congress party and taking it forward," he told reporters.
Asked whether he was leading the group of sulking lawmakers, Patil said, "We are a team. I'm no senior or no junior. We 15-20 people are all equals. Whatever decision happens, it will be of the team."
The opposition BJP took a dig at the state's ruling dispensation, saying it was not a 'functioning government'.
'48 hours after Congress & its (sic) B team took oath as ministers in Karnataka we still dont see a functioning govt. All they r busy is with deciding who will loot what in the state. Cong CM Kumaraswamy & his govts soul (sic) intention is to ensure enough is looted to fund 2019 elections,' Karnataka BJP said in a tweet.
Kumaraswamy had inducted 25 new ministers on June 6, including those from his party JD-S, Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, and the fledgling Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party, but has still not been able to distribute portfolios to them due to the rumblings in the Congress, which is the second largest party after the BJP in the assembly with 79 MLAs.
Several key members of the previous Siddaramaiah ministry, including M B Patil, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Ramalinga Reddy, R Roshan Baig, H K Patil, Tanvir Sait, Shamanur Sivashankarappa and and Satish Jarkhiholi did not find a place in the new government.