THOUSANDS OF saffron flags fluttered across the cityscape as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka (BJP’s first in the south) at the Vidhana Soudha on Monday.
“I assure you that our coalition government will complete the 19-month term. Creation and maintenance of infrastructure is our top priority. We will leave no stone unturned to make Karnataka a model state,” the new CM said. “I will meet Deve Gowda tonight. I trust him and Kumaraswamy 101 per cent,” he said, when the media repeatedly quizzed BJP president Rajnath Singh about the bitter-sweet relationship between the coalition partners in recent days.
The chief minister’s first major challenge is cajoling coalition partner Janata Dal(S) to join the government, ahead of the vote of confidence on November 23. At the first Cabinet meeting, Yeddyurappa and four ministers moved the date for the no-confidence motion to November 23 from November 15. “Since our JD(S) friends want time to join the ministry, we will take the floor test after they are sworn in,” the chief minister said.
“We have the support of 129 legislators. Three or four more have told they will back us,” Yeddyurappa said. Of the 129 MLAs, 79 are from his party, 41 from JD(S), three from Dal (U) and six are Independents.
“My focus is all-round development of the state. I will ensure priority to minorities, the weaker sections and women. Maintenance of law and order and communal harmony will be on top of my agenda,” the new CM said.
Dal sources said the choice of deputy chief minister is crucial for the longevity of the new government. If the post goes to anyone outside the Gowda family, the government could collapse any time. “This is not a coalition of opportunism. This government was formed at the initiative of the JD(S) and will last its full term of 19 months,” said the BJP president.
While the BJP top brass, including Rajnath Singh, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Narendra Modi, Yashwanth Sinha, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar occupied the VIP rows, Deve Gowda chose to skip the ceremony and went to New Delhi, en route to Allahabad for a party workers’ convention early on Monday.
Leader of JD(S) legislature party, H.D. Kumaraswamy, arrived 10 minutes before the ceremony with a couple of former ministers, but turned down requests to take a seat next to BJP leaders in the VIP enclosure. “We will announce the date (of Dal legislators taking oath) soon,” was all Kumaraswamy said at the ceremony.