On Friday, just a day ahead of the floor test in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Congress party released an audio tape allegedly of tainted mining baron and former Minister of Tourism Gali Janardhana Reddy offering a bribe to MLA-elect of Raichur Rural, Basavagouda Daddal. In the tape, a voice, alleged to be that of Janaradhana Reddy, is heard saying that he would be able to help increase Basangouda's wealth a hundred-fold.
As shocking as this may seem, this episode brings back memories of the turbulent time in October 2010 when the Opposition, a Congress-JD(S) combine, had tabled a no-confidence motion against the Yeddyurappa government and a floor test was conducted.
In 2010, the BJP was facing a rebellion from within, instigated by the JD(S) and Congress. Several BJP MLAs were touted to be in favour of withdrawing support from the BJP. Fearing mass defection of MLAs, Janardhana Reddy and Yeddyurappa had transported BJP MLAs to various resorts, even as several other rebel MLAs were also held in resorts by JD(S). Things appeared to be in favour of the BJP as the party had the numbers and all it had to do was prove its majority against the Opposition's motion.
But the Congress-JD(S) combine had hatched a plan, one which would eventually work in its favour. A day ahead of the trust vote, the rebel legislators were flown overnight to a hotel in Chennai. When the political drama unfolded, the BJP released an audio tape purportedly of HD Kumaraswamy luring the then BJP MLA Appachchu Ranjan with the promise of a ministerial berth. It was Ranjan who exposed this conversation to the media later.
Excerpts of the clip:
Kumaraswamy: BJP MLA Shankaralinge Gowda claims you are interested. Why donâ€™t you come with us?
Appachchu Ranjan: Why do you need me?
Kumaraswamy: I know BJP has not given you anything. You are very senior. Come with us. We will make you a cabinet Minister. We will give you (everything) want.
Appachchu Ranjan: No, I am not interested.
Kumaraswamy: Please think again. We might get 25-30 BJP MLAs before October 11. The government will surely fall.
The similarities are uncanny.
This time around, fearing mass defections, the Congress and JD(S) have taken their party's elected representatives to hotels in Hyderabad. Although the BJP could not sneak any of these leaders out of Hyderabad, the Congress definitely made allegations of the party offering bribes to some of its party members. On Friday, the audio tape released by the Congress had a similar scenario play out, where Janardhana Reddy is purportedly offering Basavangouda money and a ministerial berth.
Not just the tapes
The current political scenario has a lot in common than just the drama surrounding the audio tapes.
Back then, the Speaker presiding over the floor test was none other than KG Bopaiah, who has been elected the pro tem speaker now. The JD(S) and Congress had managed to turn five independents who had previously aligned with BJP, and also 12 of its MLAs. Bopaiah conducted a floor test with a voice vote. The 17 MLAs who had defected were immediately disqualified. There was massive chaos in the Assembly with one of the legislators even attacking a security guard.
After the fiasco, the Opposition had appealed to the Supreme Court, which struck down the Speaker's order and ordered another trust vote.
This time around, the BJP is confident of winning the floor test. However, unlike 2010, where the Opposition had poached BJP leaders, speculation is rife that the BJP has managed to turn 14 MLA-elects from the Congress-JD(S) combine.
Will the BJP prove majority? Or will Yeddyurappa have to step down as the Chief Minister for the third time? We will know after 4pm on Saturday.