In Karnataka, Yeddyurappa waits for go-ahead to stake claim
The central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to be in no hurry on Wednesday to stake claim to power in Karnataka and seemed to be waiting for the assembly speaker’s decision on disqualification petitions against 15 rebel legislators whose resignations brought down the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government a day ago, even as workers and leaders thronged the party headquarters in Bengaluru expecting to celebrate the next government.
A senior party leader said in New Delhi that the BJP would take a final call after assessing the situation. A second senior leader said in Bengaluru that the party may wait for speaker KR Ramesh Kumar’s final decision on the rebel lawmakers.
“We are at a position of advantage,” said the first leader quoted above, on condition of anonymity. “We will time our move according to our convenience.”
In Bengaluru, state BJP chief and former three-time chief minister BS Yeddyurappa made it clear that they were waiting for the central unit to greenlight any move to stake claim. “I’m awaiting instructions from Delhi. I can call legislature party meeting any time and go to Raj Bhavan,” the 76-year-old told reporters after meeting leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fount of the BJP.
The first leader quoted above said the party was clear that Yeddyurappa should get another shot in power and he will be elected the leader of the legislative party. “But we have to ascertain what is going to be the fate of the rebel MLAs. There is a case pending in the Supreme Court and there is a case before the speaker. There has to be clarity of these issues before we proceed further,” the leader added on condition of anonymity.
Ousted chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, for his part, said he had no regrets and was “happy” he could work for the poor until his last day. His father, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, however, blamed the BJP for “horse trading”.
In the 225-member assembly, of which 204 voted in the floor test on Tuesday, the BJP got 105 votes, and the Congress-JD(S) 99. Those who did not turn up were 15 Congress-JD(S) rebels whose resignations are pending before Kumar; two other Congress members; one member of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) who has been expelled from the party; and two independents, one of whom is facing disqualification.
A third senior BJP lawmaker pointed out that if the House is at full strength, the BJP is still short of the majority mark of 113 until a decision on the rebels is taken. Under the law, there is no specified time frame for the speaker to decide on the issue.
“There is a technical difficulty in staking a claim at this moment,” this senior BJP MLA said on condition of anonymity. “Without a decision on the rebels, the House strength will remain 225 and we will not have the requisite numbers to prove a majority,” he said.
AH Vishwanath, former JD(S) state president and one of the rebels, said they were united and awaiting the speaker’s decision. “Let us wait and see what happens. We have not been contacted by BJP leaders after Tuesday’s floor test,” he said.
Vishwanath said the rebels would take up any delay in acceptance of resignations by the speaker with the Supreme Court. “We are dissenters not defectors, which was how we were portrayed in the House,” he said, adding that the rebels had no plans to return soon. “We are taking things one step at a time. Whatever the decision is, it will be a consensus decision,” he said.
“If the speaker doesn’t decide soon, we will have to move the Supreme Court asking for an immediate decision,” said the third BJP leader quoted above.
Kumar asked the rebels to meet him on Tuesday in connection to the disqualification petitions but the lawmakers sought four weeks time.
Karnataka Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao, meanwhile, said it was up to the “party high command” to take a final decision on the future of the coalition now that the 14-month rule of the Kumaraswamy government had ended.