More than 24 hours after the Janata Dal(S)-Congress government fell in Karnataka after being defeated in a no-confidence motion, there was no sign as to who will become the chief minister of Karnataka. Though the 76-year-old BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa is keen to become the chief minister and is believed to have been ready to make his claim to form the government within hours of the fall of the Kumaraswamy dispensation, he apparently has been restrained by the BJP headquarters for the time being.
A senior BJP observer is expected to be deputed to Bengaluru shortly to sort out matters and hold an election for the leader of the legislative party. Earlier the observer to come visiting was supposed to be home minister Amit Shah but the ongoing Lok Sabha session may have detained him. A decision was yet to be finalised about whether the BJP would want to form a government just now or wait till the party has a majority, a highly placed source said.
The Karnataka state assembly has a strength of 224, but with 20 MLAs restraining, the BJP won the no-confidence motion by 105:99. In the normal course, the BJP would need 113 MLAs voting in its favour. The 16 MLAs, who had decamped to Mumbai and helped destabilise the Kumaraswamy government, are now expected to join the BJP. But BJP MLAs are not so keen on this as they don’t want competition within. An additional twist could be the decisions of speaker K R Suresh Kumar who could well initiate actions to disqualify them as MLAs.
Some BJP leaders also feel that opening the doors of the party to all and sundry would dilute ‘the character’ of the party. Moreover, if the BJP forms a government, it will also have a slender majority which will also expose it to pressures of all kinds.
In view of this, there is a feeling in the high command that President’s rule be ushered in with the assembly being put into suspended animation. Of course, if Kumaraswamy, while resigning, had made such a recommendation, it would have been easier for governor Vajubhai Vala to right away recommend clamping of President’s rule. But if BJP expresses its inability to form a stable long-lasting government, Vajubhai Vala could take such a step. Since elections had taken place just a little over a year ago, he could well recommend that to avoid pressure on the exchequer by another round of election.
Analysts said that the central government could well accept the governor’s logic and clamp temporary President’s rule. In the meantime, the BJP could well try and form a more stable government a few months later. It could happen through more MLAs from the Janata Dal(S) and Congress joining the BJP, giving it more numbers of MLAs.
The only catch is BJP’s Karnataka strongman BS Yeddyurappa, who is raring to become the chief minister. An MLA since 1983, Yeddy has the powerful Lingayat community behind him. One of the main pillars behind the BJP, the community is rich with a string of religious
mathas holding the members in a unified closely knit group which is financially well to do. Though strong, Yeddyurappa is extremely self-willed and therefore not a great favourite of the top duo of PM Modi and Amit Shah. They would rather want a chief minister who would be more amenable to them.
In fact, he had left the party after some corruption charges and formed his own outfit Karnataka Janata Paksha. The exit of Yeddyurappa in 2011 had, however, greatly damaged the BJP and it is only after his return in 2016 that the party was on a good footing.
After the last election in May 2018, he became the chief minister as the BJP had the maximum number of MLAs. But he had to quit as JD(S) and Congress combined to cobble up greater numbers. This has rankled him ever since.
But Yeddyurappa is now 76, more than the maximum age of 75, specified by RSS for those holding top posts. It has to be seen if the saffron outfit gives him an exemption from this norm. Otherwise, a Lingayat MLA could be pushed as the chief minister — this would dent the cutting edge of Yeddyurappa.
Read his columns
Kingshuk Nag is an author and a journalist.