BS Yeddyurappa has had the dubious honour of becoming the Chief Minister of Karnataka for just two days. The JD(S)-Congress last minute manouver that toppled him from the CM’s chair is an insult the BJP leader has not taken lightly. And like many times in the past few months, once again, BS Yeddyurappa is planning to topple the Karnataka government. And it seems this time the BJP leader has been meeting with more success than his previous attempts.
The BJP has already taken three Congress MLAs to Mumbai and is in talks with at least 17 more. Those close to Yeddyurappa in the party say he will be able to convince the national leadership that this is the apt time to either form the government or to force an election. There are a few voices in the BJP however, who believe that the party must now concentrate on Lok Sabha polls.
The strength of the Karnataka Assembly is 225 including the Speaker. The magic number is 113, excluding the Speaker who casts his vote only in the event of a tie.
Currently, there are 79 Congress MLAS, 37 JD(S) MLAs, one MLA each from KPJP (R Shankar) and BSP (N Mahesh) and one independent candidate (Mulbagal H Nagesh), who support the ruling combine. In addition, the Speaker is a Congress MLA. With 120 MLAs on its side, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has obtained a simple majority. The BJP has 104 legislators.
For the BJP to form a simple majority in the house, the quorum needs to be brought down to 207.
If Congress or JD(S) MLAs defect, anti-defection laws apply. This means that even if the 18 MLAs vote against the coalition government, they stand to be disqualified as legislators. However, as this process is a long-winded one, the alternative for the BJP is to ensure that these 18 legislators walk out of the Assembly or do not appear on the day of trust vote.
Though the BJP has tried once or twice in the past to win over MLAs, what has boosted Yeddyurappa’s confidence this time is that the strained relationship between the coalition partners has left many MLAs disgruntled.
If R Shankar (KPJP), H Nagesh (independent) and N Mahesh (BSP) side with the BJP, then the BJP can prove majority if the strength of the house is brought down to 213. For this to happen, the BJP needs 12 MLAs to defect either from the Congress or the JD(S).
Sources with the BJP say that the party has been in touch with 20 Congress MLAs. “We are in touch with 20 Congress MLAs and we want them to join the BJP. If we manage to do this, then we will not need the independents to side with us. The count in the house will fall to 204 and BJP can easily come to power. We want to annihilate the Congress in Karnataka,” the source added.
However, BJP insiders say that the horsetrading of Congress MLAs in the state is an uphill task. Since most of the leaders approached by the BJP are seniors, the party is finding it difficult to turn the heads of loyalists, who have remained in the Congress for years.
“Some of the leaders are disgruntled and easy to convince. If the horsetrading does not work, we will bring the issue to a brink and force re-elections,” the source added.
JD(S) plays the same game
While the BJP has been busy trying to poach Congress and JD(S) MLAs, the other side too has not been silent with the strategists in these two parties commencing talks to woo BJP MLAs to their side.
BJP State President BS Yeddyurappa on Monday announced that Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy was trying to poach BJP MLAs and try to break the party’s unity.
“We have not been forcing any Congress MLAs to join our party. On the other hand, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has been talking to BJP leaders and trying to break the party’s unity. He has been offering them ministerial berths, plum posts in boards and corporations,” Yeddyurappa alleged.
If the Congress does manage to poach BJP MLAs, the coalition will obviously not retain power in the state.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Kumaraswamy said that the three MLAs, who went incommunicado on Sunday were in touch with him. He also said that none of the leaders with the coalition were jumping ship and that the government is safe from BJP’s attempts to break it.
“I know who the BJP is talking to and how much they are offering. No one is missing. The said MLAs are in touch with me and the coalition is strong. I can handle it,” CM Kumaraswamy said.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah, Dinesh Gundu Rao and others have been echoing the same sentiment. However, DK Shivakumar, the Congress leader credited with keeping the Congress flock together during the vote of confidence against BS Yeddyurappa, is unhappy that the Chief Minister is not working aggressively to expose the BJP. A man known for his persuasive tactics, DK Shivakumar had ferried the leaders of the coalition to a hotel in Hyderabad ahead of the no confidence motion in May last year. With the BJP unable to poach a single leader then, Yeddyurappa was forced to become the two-day CM in the history of Karnataka and DK Shivakumar was hailed as the man who pushed the coalition towards success.
With speculation of the BJP destabilizing the current government, the larger question is - will the BJP succeed? Or will the Congress’ troubleshooter win again?