After discussions stretching months, as many as 34 Congress MLAs in Karnataka who did not make it to the Cabinet last year were on Friday appointed chairpersons of boards and corporations run by the state government.
Several close associates of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM D K Shivakumar are among the legislators chosen to head the state boards and corporations, according to a list released by the government. These appointments are aimed at controlling the differences within the state unit ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
MLAs S R Srinivas (Gubbi) and K M Shivalingegowda (Arasikere) who were elected on Congress tickets after leaving the Janata Dal (Secular) have been given important roles as the heads of the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation and the Karnataka Housing Board respectively. Both MLAs are considered to be close to Siddaramaiah.
The CM’s other close associates who made it to the list are Chamarajanagara MLA C Puttarangashetty who got the post of Mysore Sales International Ltd chairperson, as well as H.D Kote MLA Anil Chikamadu who has been given the post of state Jungle Lodges and Resorts chairperson.
Among the prominent appointments from the camp of D K Shivakumar are Shantinagar MLA N A Harris, given the charge of the Bengaluru Development Authority; Magadi MLA H C Balakrishna who is now in charge of the Karnataka Road Development Board; and Dharwad (Rural) MLA Vinay Kulkarni who has been allotted the charge of the Karnataka Water Supply and Sewerage Board.
Two women MLAs, Kaneez Fathima from Gulabarga North and Roopakala M from the Kolar Gold Field (SC), have been appointed chairpersons of the Karnataka Silk Industries Board and the Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Board, respectively. Roopakala lost out on a Cabinet berth after her father and Congress veteran K H Muniyappa, a former Union Minister, was given the food and civil supplies portfolio.
Another prominent MLA who has been given responsibility is Vijayanand Kashappanavar, the representative of Hungund in Bagalkot district, who was at the forefront of an agitation a year ago for reservations for the Panchamasali Lingayat subsect. He has been made chairman of the Karnataka Sports Federation.
Sagar MLA Belur Gopalakrishna was engaged in a conflict with Education Minister Madhu Bangarappa after being overlooked for a Cabinet berth. He has now been appointed the head of the Karnataka Forest Industries Development Board.
Striking a balance
There are more than 70 different boards and corporations in the state and appointments are seen as being part of the Congress’s effort to check resentment within its ranks ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in which the party is targeting victory in 20 of the 28 seats.
The Congress currently lacks resources for development work in individual constituencies, with over Rs 59,000 crore in the Budget allocated for the implementation of the five poll guarantees that the party made ahead of the Assembly polls last May.
The first murmurs of unhappiness within the state unit emerged in August after the initial set of appointments to boards and corporations. These were aimed at placating the MLAs who did not make it to the Cabinet.
Jewargi MLA Ajay Singh was appointed as the chairman of the Kalyana Karnataka Region Development Board (KKRDB) at the time along with seven other MLAs as members. The MLAs accommodated in the KKRDB were all senior leaders who had lost out on ministerial posts. Before this, 30 disgruntled MLAs who lost out on Cabinet posts wrote to Siddaramaiah about the lack of sufficient responsibilities and funds for the development of their respective constituencies.
Since August, the party has been trying to balance the interests of its various senior leaders in the appointments. Shivakumar announced last week that 34 MLAs and 39 party workers would be appointed to the boards and corporations. The appointments were, however, delayed by a week on account of emerging issues.
Boards and corporations are crucial to the functioning of the various departments of the state government, with nearly 30 to 40% of allocations of each department made to their chairpersons.