‘Tainted’ MLAs Shivakumar, Baig made ministers

FrontKarnataka CM Siddaramaiah and Governor H R Bhardwaj with D K Shivakumar and Roshan Baig,

Abandoning the moral high ground on crime and corruption it sought to take for the past eight months since coming to power in Karnataka in May 2013, the Congress inducted Wednesday "tainted" legislators D K Shivakumar and Roshan Baig into the state Cabinet.

The Vokkaliga and Muslim leaders considered political heavyweights were sworn in at Raj Bhavan by Governor H R Bhardwaj, with a large number of supporters bursting into celebrations outside.

CM Siddaramaiah had resisted their induction for days but had to finally give in considering Congress exigencies - winning the support of the dominant Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka and keeping the faith of the minorities before the Lok Sabha polls this year.

In a move widely seen as a tactic to block Shivakumar and Baig from entering the Cabinet, he had only a month ago obtained the resignation Santosh Lad from the council of ministers on the ground that his company was being probed in the illegal mining scam.

Shivakumar, 51, a six-time MLA, former minister and Congress working president, and Baig, 60, also a six-time MLA, had lobbied hard for berths in the Cabinet.

The induction of Shivakumar, a supporter of senior Congress leader S M Krishna, was expected after he ensured a thumping victory for the Congress in a bypoll to the Bangalore Rural parliamentary constituency in August. But Siddaramaiah, who perceives Shivakumar as a political threat, kept delaying Cabinet expansion for four months.

With LS polls approaching, Shivakumar and Baig intensified efforts to get into the Cabinet and the Congress high command was forced to direct an expansion despite the argument that this would trigger protests from activists against inclusion of "tainted" legislators. The two got an opening when Siddaramaiah appointed a "tainted" engineer belonging to his Kuruba community secretary in the public works department months ago.

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