Curtains for HD Kumaraswamy govt as coalition loses floor
Karnataka’s beleaguered coalition government crumbled on Tuesday after losing a trust vote by six votes, capping weeks of political drama and setting the stage for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to stake claim to power in the only southern state it has ruled.
The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance secured 99 votes in favour and 105 against on a trust vote motion moved in the 225-member assembly by chief minister HD Kumaraswamy last Thursday.
Two Congress, two independent and one Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator stayed away from the vote, as did 15 rebel legislators – 12 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) – whose resignations roughly three weeks ago pushed the 14-month-old government to the brink of collapse.
“The motion moved by the chief minister has fallen through,” announced speaker KR Ramesh Kumar around 7.30pm as BJP members gathered around state party chief BS Yeddyurappa on the floor of the assembly, beaming and showing victory signs.
Kumaraswamy, 59, drove to the governor house shortly afterwards and submitted his resignation. It was immediately accepted but he was asked to continue as caretaker chief minister. “I am ready to happily sacrifice this position,” Kumaraswamy said.
Yeddyurappa, 76, who resigned last year as chief minister after three days in power without facing a trust vote, said that a decision on forming the government would be taken as “early as possible”.
“It is a victory of democracy. The people were fed up with the Kumaraswamy government. I want to assure the people of Karnataka that a new era of development will start from now,” he added.
The BJP is likely to stake claim to form the next government on Wednesday after meeting the governor, state BJP leader R Ashoka said. “The exit of the corrupt, illegitimate coalition government is good news for the people of Karnataka,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said “democracy, honesty & the people of Karnataka lost”.He tweeted: “From its first day, the Cong-JDS alliance in Karnataka was a target for vested interests, both within & outside, who saw the alliance as a threat & an obstacle in their path to power. Their greed won today.”
The unlikely coalition of once-rivals was forged after the May 2018 assembly election turned in a hung House, with the BJP as the single-largest party at 104 seats, the Congress at 78 and the JD(S) at 37. Even as the results were trickling in on May 15, the Congress offered the CM’s position to the JD(S) in a bid to keep the BJP out of power. Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony saw opposition leaders from across the country flying into Bengaluru in a show of strength of Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 general elections.
But the top-down coalition was roiled by fissures and internal dissent from the beginning, with Kumaraswamy publicly saying he was forced to swallow “poison”. The crisis deepened after the BJP snatched 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state this summer, leaving just one each for the coalition partners.
The current crisis for the coalition began on July 6 with the resignation of 12 legislators, and worsened despite efforts by alliance leaders to marshal lawmakers. Debate on the trust vote began on Thursday and continued for five days despite two deadlines set by the governor, petitions in the Supreme Court and repeated complaints by the BJP that the government was delaying the vote on purpose.
Speaking in the House on Tuesday, an emotional Kumaraswamy cautioned the BJP during his two-hour-long speech that it shouldn’t feel happy about defeating the coalition government. “This seat is not permanent for anybody. There have been 23 chief ministers in this state,” he told the assembly.
He said when he planned to quit politics after the 2018 assembly polls results. “My political entry itself was all of a sudden and unexpected.”
Kumaraswamy told the saffron party that its government would not last long. “First bomb will explode in ministry formation,” he said.
After the vote, Congress leader DK Shivakumar fired a warning to the rebel legislators, saying he would meet them in the “battlefield”. “The BJP will kill you politically,” he added.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah accused the BJP of trying to come to power through the back door using bribery and “wholesale” trade of MLAs.
The BJP did not take part in the debate except for interventions and remained silent despite allegations by the Congress and JD(S) members.
Despite the completion of the trust vote process, the political uncertainty in Karnataka may not be over yet. The speaker is yet to take a call on the fate of the rebel MLAs, who have disqualification petitions hanging against them and whose resignation letters have still not been accepted.
Shortly after the vote, BSP chief Mayawati expelled the party’s lone MLA in Karnataka, N Mahesh, for “violating” the party decision to vote in favour of the Kumaraswamy government.