Proving third time unlucky as Karnataka's Chief Minister, the BJP's Lingayat strongman, B.S. Yeddyurappa, stares at an uncertain future although his party bets on his return to power again.
"Yeddyurappa will continue to be the party's state unit president till we return to power again. He will become chief minister again before his political career ends," Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Vamanacharya told IANS.
Yeddyurappa, 75, resigned on Saturday before the crucial trust vote as he did not have the majority in a hung House, falling seven short of the 111-halfway mark in the 225-member Legislative Assembly, whose current strength is 222.
Of the 222 assembly segments where the election was held on May 12, BJP won 104, the Congress 78, the Janata Dal-Secular, 37 and one each by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) and an Independent, leading to an inconclusive election.
Election in one assembly segment in Bengaluru has been deferred to May 28 due to electoral malpractice and countermanded in another constituency due to the death of BJP contestant B.N. Vijaya Kumar. One member of the Anglo-Indian community is nominated to the House.
Mauled at the hustings, a bruised Congress and a wounded Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) came together after the poll results threw up a hung House and formed a post-poll alliance to upstage the BJP in the numbers game and also staked claimed to power.
When Governor Vajubhai R. Vala invited Yeddurappa to form a BJP government and take oath as Chief Minister after he too staked claim to power, a defiant Congress and its JD-S ally petitioned the Supreme Court to stall his swearing-in and advance the floor test from the 15 days laid down.
Though the alliance partners did not succeed in preventing Yeddyurappa taking oath on May 17, they prevailed upon the apex court to advance the floor test to May 19, which he did not take in the absence of even the simple majority.
Admitting that the BJP has in the Congress-JD-S a common foe than two rival parties, Vamanacharya said the combined alliance would be their target to beat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
"We are setting our sight on the 2019 general elections as Yeddyurappa vowed to win in all the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the southern state during his emotional speech on the floor of the House before bowing out of office gracefully," said Vamanacharya.
With the focus henceforth on the parliamentary elections, the BJP will not worry much on what will happen in the hung assembly or how long the Congress-JD-S coalition government will last, currently with a combined strength of 115 seats.
Political analyst Sandeep Shastri, however, feels Yedddyurappa's prospects of becoming Chief Minister again are bleak for various reasons.
"Yeddyurappa's speech in the Assembly before calling quits sounded as a farewell address. Three-four years later, he may not be eligible to become chief minister again if we go by the BJP's yardstick of not having leaders above 75 years in power. This election possibly was his last chance at the power," Shastri told IANS.
BJP's veteran leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha have sidelined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they were above 75 years in age.
"But the party is certain to bank on Yeddyurappa's popularity as a Lingayat leader for the general elections," Shastri added.
Observing that the BJP may not tinker with its state leadership for the time being, Shastri said Yeddyurappa would continue to be the party's chief campaigner for the Lok Sabha elections as the tallest Lingayat leader across the state.
Vamanacharya, however, contended that age was no bar for the party, as there was no other leader to rival Yeddyurappa in seniority and stature at the state level.
"Age is no bar for us as there is no competition to him (Yeddyurappa). As he has been declared a leader, creating parallels will not be a good sign of a national party," Vamanacharya added.
The party's hunch is that the Congress-JD(S) alliance may fall apart sooner than later, giving Yeddyurappa another chance to become Chief Minister for the fourth time.
"Let the Congress and JD(S) fight, then the anti-incumbency, which exists against the former will escalate, as some of its re-elected legislators will be back in power in their coalition government," noted the spokesman.
(Bhavana Akella can be reached at email@example.com)