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‘Proof of failure in handling Covid-19,’ says Congress as Karnataka gets new health minister

In a minor reshuffle in Karnataka, the health portfolio which was with B Sriramulu has been transferred to Dr K Sudhakar the Medical Education minister, according to a notification issued by the Raj Bhavan. The changes were notified by Governor Vajubhai Vala on the recommendation of CM BS Yediyurappa.

The health ministry has increasingly become important because of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with Karnataka registering the second highest number of cases in the country after Maharashtra.

Sudhakar a trained doctor by qualification, who currently holds the medical education portfolio, will get the health and family welfare ministry too. Sriramulu has been given the social welfare department which was with PWD minister Govind Karajol as additional charge.

Sriramulu a prominent OBC face of the party, however, rushed to meet CM Yediyurappa to express his unhappiness at being shunted out as ‘it would send wrong message to the people of the state about his ability to handle the responsibility,’ a source close to the minister told HT.

The new social welfare minister himself, however, refused to talk to the media and Sudhakar the new health minister said that it was the prerogative of the CM to allocate portfolios and said he might have been given the responsibility as medical education, health and family welfare were closely related.

Sudhakar also denied that the reallocation in portfolio had been done due to allegations by opposition Congress of massive corruption in procurement of equipment related to Covid-19 treatment or due to failure in controlling the spread of the pandemic.

A senior minister in the Yediyurappa cabinet who is also a former president of the state BJP unit, KS Eshwarappa defended the re-allocation saying that social welfare department suited Sriramulu better. “It is upto the CM to decide who should be given what. Social welfare department is also a very big ministry. It is a good opportunity (for Sriramulu) to ensure social justice,” Eshwarappa added.

Earlier for months there were murmurs of disagreement in terms of Covid-19 handling strategy between Sriramulu and Sudhakar. A miffed CM BS Yediyurappa had even named primary and secondary education minister Suresh Kumar as the chief government spokesperson for all matters related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sudhakar had then denied any rift calling Sriramulu his ‘elder brother’.

The main opposition party Congress immediately hit out at the government’s decision to change the health minister. KPCC President DK Shivakumar tweeted, “The Cabinet Reshuffle done by CM @BSYBJP is proof of this government’s miserable failure in handling the Covid-19 Pandemic. The fact that the Health Minister has been changed adds credence to our charge that this govt’s incompetency has led to massive loss of life and livelihood.”

A senior cabinet minister said that the larger expansion and reshuffle planned by the Yediyurappa cabinet might now happen only next month after the results of the Sira and RR Nagar assembly by-polls are known. “We are still awaiting the green signal from the high command for it as there are a large number of aspirants for it. Otherwise this (the minor reshuffle) would not have been done now.”

Karnataka over the last week has registered on an average around 10,000 new Covid-19 cases daily and till now cumulatively has recorded more than 7 lakh cases with nearly 10,000 deaths due to the viral infection.

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