Finance portfolio bone of contention for JD(S), Congress

Bengaluru: The JD(S)-Congress coalition may have had a smooth run so far winning the trust vote and the Speaker's post but portfolio allocation is proving to be a bed of thorns  with both parties insisting on getting the prized finance portfolio.

The Congress is firm on getting finance and the JD(S) is equally determined to keep the portfolio for itself though it is flexible on other portfolios. Sources said the Congress is apprehensive about the future of some of their populist programmes, which helped them overcome anti-incumbency during the polls, under a  finance minister of the JD(S) and feels it might affect their prospect in the Parliamentary elections in 2019. Besides, to streamline fiscal discipline, the JD(S)  might bring in certain reforms, which may not be in the best interests of the Congress, said sources.

However, the JD(S) has its reasons for demanding the portfolio as it has made a huge commitment on waiving farmer loans. Besides, there is a need to draw up a common minimum programme and implement it too. It would therefore be important for the Chief Minister to have complete control over state finances, as the BJP led Central government is unlikely to be adopt a soft approach towards Karnataka's  problems after making a swift exit from power, sources said.

Meanwhile, CM Kumaraswamy said he needed some time for waiving farmer loans, as he was at the mercy of the coalition partner, the Congress. "I was not voted to be CM by the people. I was made CM by the Congress. So, I am not at the mercy of six crore people of Karnataka  but at the mercy of the Congress. To fulfill the promises, I need at least a week's time,'' Mr Kumaraswamy said.

Taking a dig at Opposition leader Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa who had called a bandh on Monday on the farmer loan issue, the CM said there was no need to provoke farmers in this regard. "He is no one to seek my resignation. If I cannot waive farmer loans and solve their problems, I will resign on my own," he said.

Mr Kumaraswamy made it clear that he had not received any call from Congress president Mr Rahul Gandhi for  a meeting on Cabinet expansion or portfolio allocation and said he was going to Delhi on Monday to meet Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. "It is a courtesy call after I took over as CM. I spoke to Mr Rahul Gandhi over phone, I will not be meeting him," Mr Kumaraswamy added.

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