Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah gets 2 more advisors as Congress takes appointment route to placate MLAs

The new appointments come in addition to Siddaramaiah's already existing 3 advisors and two political secretaries — all with Cabinet ranks.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Dec 30, 2023 | 11:30 AMUpdatedDec 30, 2023 | 12:59 PM

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah appoints senior rebel MLAs Basavaraj Rayreddy and BR Patil as his financial advisor and advisor, respectively, with Cabinet rank. (Supplied)

In the latest political turn of events, Congress senior rebel MLAs Basavaraj Rayreddy and BR Patil have assumed the roles of financial advisor and (Political) advisor, respectively, to Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday, 29 December.

This decision raises eyebrows as the Chief Minister already boasts a chief advisor, a legal advisor, a media advisor, and two political secretaries, all holding Cabinet rank, despite a full complement of ministers in his Cabinet.

The motivation behind Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s recent appointments appears to be rooted in political and personal commitments.

Appointment route to placate leaders

Yelburga MLA Basavaraj Rayareddy and Aland MLA BR Patil had previously rebelled against their own government for various political reasons in recent months. Their discontent stemmed from the perceived lack of accommodation in Siddaramaiah’s Cabinet by the high command.

In another major appointment, Congress veteran and Haliyal MLA RV Deshpande has been appointed as the Chairman of Administrative Reforms Commissioner. This also marked the first appointment for the Chairman of the boards and corporations in the Congress government.

While these additions to the team are anticipated to strain the state exchequer, they may also encounter legal challenges, considering the historical questioning of the constitutional validity of such appointments in courts.

In a recent instance, Karnataka High Court had slapped notice to the Basavaraj Bommai-led-BJP government over similar political appointments that violated the Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution. However, the then-Bommai government reportedly did not reply to the court notice.

Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs HK Patil defended these appointments and said that “it won’t bring any legal hurdles to the government.”

Also Read: Siddaramaiah’s 3 advisors, 2 political secretaries make for legal hurdle

Advisors with Cabinet rank

All three legislators who have been given fresh appointments will hold Cabinet-rank. In simple terms, the three legislators are entitled to all the perks and allowances of a Cabinet minister.

Incidentally, Siddaramaiah’s Chief Advisor, Sunil Kanugolu, is also Congress’ election strategist who was engaged with the party’s campaigning in recently concluded Telangana Assembly elections.

However, the previous instances, point out that these appointments clearly violate the Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution. “These appointments are likely to face legal consequences, if anyone files PIL in the high court,” Social Activist SR Hiremath told South First.

Defending these appointments, Minister HK Patil told South First, “These appointments are only considered as Cabinet rank but not similar to that of cabinet ministers. They will have the Cabinet status and perks but not powers.”

“As per the rule, we have 34 Cabinet ministers including the Chief Minister. I don’t think we will face any legal hurdles on these appointments,” Patil replied when asked about the possible legal consequences.

However, he refrained from commenting on the political reasons behind these appointments.

Others in similar posts are Sunil Kanugolu as Chief Advisor, Virajpet MLA AS Ponnanna, who is also a former additional advocate-general, as Legal Advisor, MLCs Naseer Ahmed and K Govindaraj are political secretaries to Chief Minister, and KV Prabhakar is media advisor — all with Cabinet ranks.

Also Read: Karnataka Cabinet: Meet the eight first-time ministers

34 Cabinet ministers and then some

All the aforementioned appointees, thanks to their Cabinet rank, are entitled to the same perks, including wages, reimbursements, and staff, as that of a Cabinet minister.

The previous BJP government had revised the salary of the Cabinet ministers, MLAs and MLCs.

A Cabinet minister will draw at least ₹3,22,500 per month as a salary. This also includes monthly home rent allowance of ₹1.20 lakh, daily tour allowance of ₹2,500, and supplementary allowance of ₹37,500 per month.

Apart from the wages, each will be provided a separate staff, official vehicle with driver, office at Vidhana Soudha, and other perks, all at a cost to the exchequer.

Describing these political appointments as unconstitutional, retired IAS officer SM Jamdar had told South First previously, “There is no sanctity is left in the Cabinet. These political advisors, secretaries and legal advisors with Cabinet rank will not have any power but they will enjoy the same perks that of cabinet minister. They will get the same wages as that of a minister, separate office, and staff. These appointments are unconstitutional and will also cost the state exchequer. This is just political management by the ruling party to cool-off dissent among the MLAs.”

Also Read: Veerashaiva Mahasabha does not want to be identified as ‘Hindu’

Previous instances of legal hurdles

There are many instances in the past, where petitions have been filed against the state government for such political appointments in the Karnataka High Court.

The recent one was a PIL filed by Samaj Parivarthana Samudaya founder-president SR Hiremath against the Basavaraj Bommai government for the appointment of then MLAs MP Renukacharya and DN Jeevaraj as political secretaries, and Beluru Sudarshan and Kedarnat Mudda as political advisors. These appointments violated the Constitution, the petitions said.

Article 164(1A) of the Indian Constitution states the total number of ministers, including the chief minister, cannot exceed 15 percent of the total members of the Legislative Assembly of a state. As the Karnataka Assembly is a 224-member house, hence, a maximum of 34 ministers can be in the Cabinet.

Based on this petition, the Karnataka High Court had served notice to the Bommai government. However, the state government reportedly did not responded to the high court notice.

In another such instance, based on a PIL filed by Bengaluru-based advocate S Umapathi challenging the appointment of NR Santosh as political secretary to former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, the Karnataka High Court had issued a notice to the government. However, the case couldn’t continue as NR Santosh resigned for his position as political secretary.

Social Activist SR Hiremath told South First, “These appointments clearly violated the Constitution. We had also filed a PIL through our Samaj Parivarthana Samudaya. Considering our plea, a notice was also issued to the Bommai government.”

“However, in another instance, a similar PIL was filed but the court dismissed it. If anyone is willing to file PIL, thorough study is must in these cases. There are several court verdicts against the government questioning the legality of such appointments,” added Hiremath.