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Congress-JD(S) alliance outmanoeuvres BJP at its own game, in Karnataka, Kumaraswamy to take oath on May 23

The Congress and JD (S) were quick on the uptake in legally challenging the invitation Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala offered to BS Yeddyurappa to form government although they together had more seats in the House.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 20, 2018 07:28 IST
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
BS Yeddyurappa resignation,Congress JDS alliance,Congress
BS Yeddyurappa addressing the House before resigning as the Karnataka chief minister at Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa resigned on Saturday without facing a potentially cliff-hanger trust vote on the floor of the Karnataka assembly in the biggest political setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in four years and a rare success for the Congress.

The stage is now set for a Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government headed by HD Kumaraswamy to be sworn in. Kumaraswamy met the governor on Saturday evening and will take the oath of office on Wednesday in a ceremony expected to be attended by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and leaders of several national parties including Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee, the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati, the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s K Chandrashekar Rao.

“I’m resigning as chief minister. I’m grateful to the speaker for giving me this opportunity,” Yeddyurappa said in a speech in the assembly, effectively conceding that the 55-hour-old, one-man government he formed would face certain defeat if the motion of confidence was put to vote.

The BJP won 104 seats in the May 12 assembly elections and the rival Congress-JD(S) combine, an alliance formed after the polls, got 115 seats in a house with an effective strength of 222. JD (S) ally Bahujan Samaj Party, a local party and an independent shared the remaining three seats.

Yeddyurappa’s hopes of winning the trust vote, set for 4pm, depended on cross-voting by members of the legislative assembly. His resignation before the motion of confidence was put to vote effectively meant the BJP’s efforts to woo rival party legislators had failed.

“I hope the BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) learn their lesson that not all institutions of this country can be subverted,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said soon after Yeddyurappa’s resignation. “My message to the PM (Narendra) Modi is that the Prime Minister is not bigger than the people of India, than the Supreme Court or the members of Parliament.”

It’s the first time since it came to power in May 2014 that the BJP has been outmanoeuvred at its own game by the Congress, which moved with alacrity to stitch up an alliance with the JD(S) and offered the chief minister’s post to Kumaraswamy.

On three occasions in the past, in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the Congress emerged as the largest party in the state legislature only for the BJP to form government by quickly tying up with regional parties.

“This is the most opportunistic alliance you’ve seen,” BJP spokesperson and Union minister Prakash Javadekar said on Saturday. “Rahul Gandhi ‘s claim that the Congress has defeated the BJP is laughable, because the Congress has actually lost out. They have been reduced to 78 seats,” he added.

The Congress and JD (S) were quick on the uptake in legally challenging the invitation governor Vajubhai Vala offered to Yeddyurappa to form government although they together had more seats in the House. The court set the floor test for Saturday, shortening the 15-day window Vala had offered Yeddyurappa to prove a majority, in the process pre-empting attempts to woo rival legislators, who spent Friday in Hyderabad to avoid the likely offer of inducements.

The Congress released four audio clips on Saturday that it said were of various BJP leaders trying to woo its members. The BJP claimed none of the recordings was authentic. “People blessed us with 104 seats. The mandate wasn’t for the Congress or the JD(S). The governor invited us to form the government because we are the largest party...Till the last breath of my life, I will work for the people of Karnataka,” Yeddyurappa said in the assembly.

Yeddyurappa’s resignation without a vote in the assembly was a throwback to 1996 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned without his 13-day-old government facing a scheduled confidence vote in the Lok Sabha.

The BJP has faced other political embarrassments since storming back to power at the Centre in 2014, notably the defeat in the 2015 Bihar and Delhi elections.In Bihar, it returned to power after Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) broke away from its alliance partners and tied up with the BJP, a former ally, in 2017.

In the abortive bid for power in Karnataka, however, it overplayed its hand. Political analyst Narendar Pani said it was the BJP’s brusqueness that had resulted in its loss of face in the state. “The BJP had got a moral victory. But the way they went about the whole affair, they managed to help the Congress convert a loss into a victory,” he said.

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy and party MLAs show victory sign to celebrate after BS Yediyurappa announced his resignation before the floor test, at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. ( PTI Photo )

On Saturday, the Karnataka assembly convened at 11am after the Congress and the JD(S) withdrew their demand for the removal of BJP leader KG Bopaiah as pro-tem speaker to oversee the trust vote.

Half an hour earlier, the Supreme Court had begun hearing a petition against Bopaiah’s appointment on grounds that by convention, the senior-most lawmaker serves as pro-tem speaker. The court said that to decide on Bopaiah’s appointment, he would have to be heard first and that would mean delaying the trust vote, scheduled to be held by 4pm.

“Law can’t direct the governor to appoint a particular person as pro-tem speaker. Unless convention becomes legal norm, it can’t be enforced by court,” the court said. The Congress said it did not press for the replacement of Bopaiah after receiving assurances that the trust vote proceedings would be broadcast live to ensure transparency.

Meanwhile, the Congress released an audio tape in which CM Yeddyurappa is purportedly heard trying to lure its MLA BC Patil with the promise of a ministerial berth if he backed the BJP government. The BJP, however, rejected the charge, calling the tape the job of “mimicry artistes” and the “dirty tricks department” of the Congress.

In Delhi, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal took a dig at PM Modi over alleged attempts to buy lawmakers. “The PM keeps saying na khaunga, na khane dunga (will neither indulge in corruption nor allow it). He should also say na kharidunga na kharidne dunga (will neither buy, nor let anyone be bought).”

Yeddyurappa, 75, became Karnataka CM for the first time in October 2007 in a BJP-JD(S) coalition government. He lasted in the post for over a month, when the JD(S) withdrew support and his government fell in November 2007. He became CM for the second time after the BJP came to power for the first time in south India on its own in the May 2008 mid-term assembly election, riding on a sympathy wave over the JD (S) “betrayal”. He had to resign three years later, in July 2011, after the Lokayukta indicted him for alleged corruption in a mining scam. Yeddyurappa said the Congress had hatched a conspiracy to subvert the people’s mandate. “They {Congress and JD (S)} kept accusing each other, using the most filthy language, which was all reported by the media,” he said. Confirming the Congress and JD(S) parties’ allegations that the BJP had contacted their MLAs, he said, “It is true that I asked MLAs to vote according to their conscience, spoke to some people and gave assurances.”

Former CM Siddaramaiah said, “He has admitted on the floor of the house that they approached our MLAs. He is the most corrupt leader in the state.”

First Published: May 19, 2018 23:23 IST