Karnataka election

Karnataka: Tussle over portfolios between Congress and JD(S) has kept Cabinet from being formed

Home, revenue, finance and geology and mines are the ministries being keenly sought after by both parties, said Congress officials.

It has been a week since HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) took oath on May 23 as Karnataka chief minister and G Parameshwara of the Congress as deputy chief minister. But the rest of the state cabinet has not been appointed as the allies are vying for lucrative, revenue-generating portfolios.

The problem has become so acute that Kumaraswamy on Monday said that, given the alliance arrangement, he was at the mercy of the Congress to proceed.

When the results of the state election were declared earlier this month, no party had an absolute majority in the 224-member house. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party won 104 seats, it was unable to cobble together the numbers to form a government. The Congress with 78 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) with 37 decided to stake their claim together. Though the Congress has more seats, it has given the chief minister’s position to its ally.

But negotiations for the rest of the cabinet portfolios are proving to be more contentious. Congress officials said that finance, revenue, public works and geology and mines have become the most sought-after ministries, with leaders of both parties attempting to drive hard bargains for them.

A former minister who requested anonymity said that state Congress leaders were of the firm opinion that if the Janata Dal (Secular) wants the finance portfolio, it should be willing to trade home, public works and geology and mines to the Congress.

According to the leader, the Janata Dal (Secular) has been told in no uncertain terms that it was important for the Congress to show its own members that the alliance is one of equals. The Congress needs to show that it is not playing second fiddle despite to its ally since it has twice the number of MLAs that the JD (S) has.

“It has been decided that we will get 22 of the 34 ministries,” the leader said. “But these 22 cannot be vague ones.”

Internally, there are differences in the Congress regarding the finance ministry. While one group, which apparently includes Deputy Chief Minister Parameshwara, feels that the finance portfolio is crucial for public relations because most government welfare schemes have to be sanctioned by this minister, others feel that finance is only an “approval ministry” and has nothing to offer on its own.

The crucial ministries have been identified as public works, which has the largest budget in the state; geology and mines, which controls crucial resources including sand; and revenue, which has hold on land. This apart, the Congress wants rural development, education and backward classes welfare. Home also assumes importance because it controls internal security.

Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (Secular) feels that since it will have only 12 members in the cabinet, giving away crucial portfolios to the Congress will increase chances of dissent. “The BJP is waiting for a chance,” a senior leader said on condition of anonymity. “We cannot take the risk of alienating our MLAs.”

Initially, there was a suggestion that the tenure of the chief minister should be shared between the allies over the government’s five-year term, but this has been left for future discussions. Now, the Janata Dal (Secular) is proposing a model by which ministries could be rotated. “One party in the alliance cannot say that it will keep all ministries that will give good name to the government,” the leader said.

Striking a balance

The Congress is looking to strike a balance between caste and regions in allocating ministries. It wants at least two substantial portfolios allotted to Lingayats, a community that the party feels is angry following the controversy over the party’s decision to give it minority religion status.

The problem of Cabinet formation has been accentuated by the fact that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are abroad on a personal trip. “They had asked the state party unit to sort out all differences before they return in a few days,” a Congress official said.

From the Congress side, Parameshwara, former chief minister Siddaramaiah, senior leader DK Shivakumar and KC Venugopal are holding discussions with Kumaraswamy on the portfolios. Officials said once the portfolio distribution is decided, the parties will have to confirm the names of the ministers, which, given the competition within, may also prove to be a tough proposition.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.