The BJP government faced the threat of instability after 13 MLAs, defying the party, threw their lot behind former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who formally launched his Karnataka Janata Party at a mega rally in Haveri, Karnataka on Sunday.
Thirteen loyalist MLAs of Yeddyurappa, who quit the BJP ten days ago, shared the dais with him in an open defiance, putting the ruling BJP in a quandary as it had warned of action if the legislators participated in Sunday's rally or associated with its former state strongman.
Addressing the rally, a show of strength, a combative Yeddyurappa slammed chief minister Jagadish Shettar and threw down the gauntlet at him to seek a fresh mandate.
"Shettar said action will be taken against legislators if they participated in today's rally. The government has no majority now. You are in chief minister's chair because of the support of Yeddyurappa. If you have the guts, dissolve the Assembly and seek fresh mandate," said Yeddyurappa.
The participation of these MLAs, including H Halappa, Nehru Olekar, BP Harish, CC Patil and Sunil Valyapure, who tendered his resigation on Saturday as infrastructure development minister, is seen as a big blow to the Government.
Seeking to put up a brave face, Shettar ruled out his resignation and asserted that he still commanded majority.
He, however, said action will be taken against those who defied the party directive and participated in Yeddyurappa's rally. "There is no question of tolerating indiscipline".
In another sign of potential trouble for the five-month-old Shettar government, at a breakfast hosted by MLC Shivaraj Sajjan here, at least 21 MLAs, seven MLCs and four Lok Sabha members met Yeddyurappa.
Seven ministers, including Basavaraja Bommai, CM Udasi, Murugesh Nirani and Shobha Karandlaje, were among those present at this meeting. But they, except Valyapure, skipped the rally, apparently to avoid the wrath of the party.
Sending a warning to Yeddyurappa's loyalists, Shettar had on Saturday sacked his trusted lieutenant BJ Puttaswamy from the ministry while the party had suspended Tumkur MP GS Basavaraju.
But the number at the breakfast meeting has disappointed Yeddyurappa, who expected more than 40 MLAs to turn up, according to sources in the Karnataka Janata Party, reins of which he took over today at the rally becoming its President.
In the 224-member assembly, BJP has a strength of 118, Congress 71, JDS 26, Independents seven and two vacancies.
Yeddyurappa slammed the BJP for the action against Puttaswamy and Basavaraju, flaying it as "selective", as the crisis in BJP appears headed for a flash-point.
He said it's "very well-known" about ministers, MLAs and MPs who are supporting him. "I am wondering why the BJP leadership is delaying and hesitating to take action against them. Instead of dilly-dallying and taking selective action, I dare the BJP leadership to dissolve the Assembly and go before the people".
"It's known truth that the Government is continuing in office with the support of my followers...," he told reporters, adding, he would like to remind the BJP leadership that it was because of his leadership that the party could form its first-ever government in the south.
"People of Karnataka will not tolerate the treatment meted out to me by the BJP leadership and selective action taken against my supporters," Yeddyurappa said.
Sunday's developments triggered calls for resignation of the BJP government by the opposition Congress on the ground that it has been reduced to a minority.
KPCC President G Parameshwara and Opposition Congress leader in the state assembly Siddarmaiah said the BJP government would soon collapse.
Yeddyurappa strongly justified the formation of a regional party, saying he saw a bright future for it and noting such parties' role in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
He said he would begin a state-wide tour, starting from Bidar in the next four-five days, to build the new party.
Three MLCs – Mumtaz Ali Khan, Sajjan and MD Lakshminarayana (who is KJP general secretary)– also attended the rally.
Yeddyurappa's new political chapter after a 40-year-long association with the BJP climaxes a 16-month power struggle within the party and running feud with the central leadership after he was asked to quit as chief minister in July last year over the Lokayukta report on illegal mining indicting him.
The 70-year-old Lingayat leader's attempts to regain chief ministership was cold-shouldered by the party top brass who asked him to come clean on corruption cases.
His bid for state party president had also failed and the party sidelining him proved to be the last straw.