Karnataka CM defends induction of ‘tainted’ lawmakers in ministry

Bangalore, Jan 1 (IANS) Karnataka’s Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Wednesday inducted party legislators D.K. Shivakumar and Roshan Baig to his ministry, ignoring corruption charges against the two and sparking dissatisfaction among many aspirants.

Shivakumar, a six-time member of the Karnataka assembly, is facing illegal mining charges and Baig, also a six-time lawmaker, is charged with land grab. Both have denied the allegations and accused their opponents of “conspiracy” to prevent them from becoming ministers.
The two were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor H.R. Bhardwaj at his official residence, Raj Bhavan in Bangalore city centre in the presence of Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G. Parameshwara and several ministers.
Siddaramaiah, who took over as chief minister May 13, had till now resisted pressure from Shivakumar and Baig and their supporters to make the two ministers as he was against having any “tainted” person in the ministry.
The chief minister told reporters after the swearing-in function that he inducted the two into the ministry “on his own, and not under pressure from any quarters”.
He defended the decision to include the two in the ministry now, saying there was only one case against Shivakumar, which had been stayed by a court, while Baig was facing a private complaint of land grab.
Their inclusion comes just over a month after mining baron and information minister Santosh Lad was forced to quit on charges of illegal iron ore mining and export.
The Janata Dal-Secular spokesperson Y.S.V. Datta and former Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister Jagadish Shettar slammed Siddaramaiah for making “tainted” legislators ministers and said this was contrary to the stand the chief minister had taken earlier.
Many Congress legislators, particularly from the north Karnataka region, like K.B. Koliwad, Basavraj Rayareddy and Malakayya Guttedar, told reporters that their claim to be in the ministry had been ignored, though they were senior leaders of the party and not facing corruption charges.
Shivakumar represents Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district, about 55 km from here, and Baig Bangalore’s Shivajinagar constituency, which has a large Muslim and Tamil-speaking population.
With the inclusion of Shivakumar, a prominent leader of the Vokkaliga community, and Baig, the ministry strength goes up to 31, leaving three vacancies.
Karnataka can have a 34-member ministry, including the chief minister.
Though freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, whom Siddaramaiah holds in high esteem, and an NGO “Samaja Parivartana Samudaya” (Society for transformation) fighting illegal mining and land grab cases have been opposing making the two ministers, Siddaramaiah has gone ahead with their inclusion after the Congress high command gave its nod to the move, apparently keeping in view Lok Sabha elections in April-May and the influence Shivakumar and Baig have in their communities.
“Though there are several senior and well-deserving party legislators, the two were taken Wednesday to provide better representation in the ministry to various communities,” Parameshwara told reporters here earlier in the day.
“Dissatisfaction in the party is natural, as there are many candidates in the party who deserve to become ministers,” the KPCC chief said.