Can BS Yediyurappa save his government? | Analysis
With the Election Commission announcing bypolls to 15 of the 17 vacant seats in Karnataka that will be held on October 21 – and with the other two seats facing separate cases in the Karnataka High Court – the fate of the nearly three-month-old B S Yediyurappa (BSY) government now hangs in the balance.
While the 17 disqualified legislators are demanding that the Supreme Court intervenes and either sets aside their disqualification or at least allows them to contest, the bypolls are still up in the air. The SC has postponed the hearing of the case to Wednesday giving time to the EC to respond. If the bypolls are held, the BJP needs to win at least 7 of the 15 seats, to get a simple majority of 113 in a house of 224.
More than being a BJP government, it has been a Yediyurappa government in Karnataka. The Lingayat strongman knows at 76, time is not on his side and wants to retain power at all costs and thus the entire onus is on him to get the required numbers. The disqualified Congress and JD(S) MLAs who helped topple the earlier coalition government are waiting to be rewarded. All the 15 seats going to bypolls were in the previous May 2018 assembly elections, won by the Congress (12) and JD(S) (3).
So despite being in power, the BJP has a task on its hands trying to wrest the seats. If the disqualified MLAs for whatever reason are not allowed to contest, they may try to prop up family members as proxies to fight on BJP tickets. How the saffron party handles its own cadre and leaders in those constituencies who have been loyal, while rewarding the defectors remains to be seen. Both Congress and JDS are working hard to ‘punish the betrayers’.
Which is why a section of BJP, is not averse to fresh polls in the state. They see overall disarray in a divided opposition camp and want to take advantage of it, for a clear mandate. But that is a minority. The bulk of the political class in the state is in no mood to face a fresh assembly poll with nearly three and half years left for the current assembly.
However, if past history is any indication, the ruling party usually has an advantage. The BJP in Karnataka also did remarkably well in the recent Lok Sabha polls winning 25 of the 28 seats. Yediyurappa will be hoping that the advantage of being the ruling party, past historical trends and its recent performance in the parliamentary polls will help it to win the required number of seats to retain his government. For now, though, all eyes on what the SC decides on Wednesday.