Despite the machinations of the BJP, not even a single JD(S) or Congress MLA had broken ranks.

Karnataka election One part of the drama has ended the second has just begun
news Opinion Saturday, May 19, 2018 - 22:30

The BJP’s brazen attempt to form the government in Karnataka with the help of a partisan Governor, though it was woefully short of numbers, fell flat on its face with the opposition JD(S)-Congress combine remaining united, forcing chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to announce his resignation in the Assembly without even moving the motion of confidence.

While Karnataka was the butt of ridicule across the country for the post-election spectacle that was playing out, today the people can hold their heads high as contrary to popular belief not even a single MLA offered themself for sale and remained loyal to their parties. The Legislative Assembly conducted itself in an orderly manner without any disruption.

This puts an end to the high drama of the past few days, with MLAs of Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress being confined to resorts and later being transported to Hyderabad for safekeeping due to the fear of being poached by the BJP.

Elections to the Karnataka Assembly were held on May 12 and a hung Assembly had emerged with BJP as the single largest party with 104 seats, but short of a simple majority. The ruling Congress won 78 seats, JD(S) 38 and Independents 2. Elections were held for 222 of the 224 constituencies and 111 seats were required to form the government.

The JD(S)-Congress alliance had the support of 118 MLAs including two independents. But Governor Vajubhai Vala decided to invite Yeddyurappa to form the government even though it was clear right from the start that the BJP would not be able to shore up the numbers without engineering defections from the opposition camp.

Vala, a former RSS man hailing from Gujarat is considered close to prime minister Narendra Modi. Vala who had won from the Rajkot (2) assembly constituency seven times in a row, vacated the seat for Modi when he contested his first election in 2002. Vala held several plum portfolios in the Modi cabinet in Gujarat, before taking over as the Speaker. He was appointed Karnataka Governor in 2014.

In another questionable move, while Yeddyurappa had sought seven day’s time to prove his majority, Vala was gracious to grant him a fortnight. This was cut down to one day by the Supreme Court which directed Yeddyurappa to seek a trust vote at 4 pm on May 19.

The appointment of KG Bopaiah as the pro-tem speaker by the Governor had also raised many eye-brows. The Supreme Court had passed severe strictures against Bopaiah,  who as the speaker in 2010 had helped the then chief minister Yeddyurappa win the trust vote by disqualifying 16 MLAs in “hot haste without meeting the twin tests of natural justice and fairplay”.

The day began with the newly elected MLAs taking oath and an indication of what was to come was available by noon as all the legislators except three were present in the House. The only way the BJP could have manufactured a majority was by making over a dozen members remain absent. Even the two Congress members who were missing returned to the Assembly just before the trust vote and joined their colleagues. The third missing member Somashekara Reddy, the brother of mining baron Janardhana Reddy, who was allegedly trying to convince these two Congress members to shift loyalties also returned to the Assembly, making it a full house.

With reality staring in the face, rumours were rife in the afternoon that Yeddyurappa would head to the Raj Bhavan and submit his resignation without seeking the vote of confidence. However, the chief minister decided to face the House and his sombre expression as he rose to table the motion of confidence was a dead giveaway.

Accusing the JD(S) and Congress of forming an unholy alliance to grab power through the backdoor, Yeddyurappa said in a chocked voice, “I will never forget the love that the people have showered on me. I will work for the uplift of farmers till my last breath. I will not move the motion but will go straight to the Raj Bhavan and submit my resignation.”

As Yeddyurappa was accusing the opposition of confining their MLAs in a jail-like atmosphere, Congress leader DK Shivakumar who was charged with the safe custody of the legislators was beaming. Despite the machinations of the BJP, not even a single JD(S) or Congress MLA had broken ranks. Shivakumar was clearly the man of the match.

Yeddyurappa left no stone unturned to retain power, but he could not remain chief minister for more than two days. In 2007 too, he was the chief minister for seven days. A petition questioning the swearing-in of Yeddyurappa is pending before the Supreme Court and there could be more embarrassment in store if the bench declares his appointment as chief minister “null and void”.

Now, the focus shifts to the JD(S) Congress combine which will form the government on Monday. One part of the drama has ended, the second has just begun.

(The author is a political commentator and a senior journalist. Views expressed here are personal.)

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