Karnataka election result: Horses stay put, BJP quits race

BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa (front row) with party members at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Saturday. | Photo: PTI
B S Yeddyurappa’s third chief ministerial stint lasted all of 55 hours, and his resignation on Saturday evening came as a shot in the arm for an Opposition struggling to mount a united challenge to the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The swearing-in of the H D Kumaraswamy-headed Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government  on Wednesday is set to become a show of Opposition unity with several chief ministers likely to attend the event. Governor Vajubhai Vala has given Kumaraswamy 15 days to prove his majority.

In Karnataka and New Delhi, the morning showed the day. At its hearing at 10 am, the Supreme Court wasn’t convinced with the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular)’s arguments for removing pro-tem speaker K G Bopaiah. But in a crucial decision, the bench comprising justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan ordered live telecast and videography of the trust vote.

As pro-tem speaker Bopaiah went about administering oath of office to the 221 newly elected legislators, including  Congress MLAs who returned from Hyderabad in the morning. In Karnataka Assembly, the Congress released at least five audio clips, which it claimed were attempts by the BJP leadership to influence their newly-elected lawmakers with threats and promise of money. The BJP dismissed these as fake. 

But by afternoon, the central leadership of the BJP was convinced that efforts by Yeddyurappa and party’s central leaders stationed in Bengaluru to poach Congress and JD (S) legislators were failing.

The BJP was at 104 seats. It at least needed seven from among independents and Congress and JD (S) to reach the halfway mark.

But Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil were the only two missing from Congress’s 78 legislators, holed in a hotel in Bengaluru.  

The media was widely reporting the audio clips. Live telecast of the trust vote proceedings also meant that the country would get to see any horse trading. The BJP leadership decided it should make an ‘honourable’ exit, which would help it occupy the moral high ground. 

Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka at 9 am on Thursday, quit at 4pm on Saturday, after an impassioned speech in the Assembly, just minutes before the floor test was scheduled to begin.

The BJP said Yeddyurappa had followed in the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 1996, the Vajpayee-led government had lasted 13 days. He had quit without facing the floor test but after making a forceful speech in the Lok Sabha that is remembered to this day. 

For the Congress, its leader D K Shivakumar emerged the star for keeping the flock together. If Pratap Gowda Patil made an appearance in the Assembly at 1.30 pm, Shivakumar was there to welcome Anand Singh at 3.15 pm. The die was cast.

In his speech, Yeddyurappa pointed to the sufferings of the farmers and the steps taken by BJP governments he has led to alleviate their sufferings, called the Congress-JD(S) alliance opportunistic, and resolved that the BJP would win all 28 of Karnataka’s Lok Sabha seats in 2019.

In New Delhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of authorising “buying off” MLAs and “disrespecting” institutions. Gandhi also said while Modi talks of fighting corruption, "he is corruption". Gandhi also said he hopes that the BJP and the RSS "learn lessons" from the political developments in the southern state. Gandhi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury and others also demanded the Karnataka Governor should quit.

Kumaraswamy received congratulatory messages from Opposition chief ministers, several of whom he has invited to attend the oath taking ceremony on Wednesday. Kumaraswamy said he had invited UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and others to the ceremony.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who had recently parted ways, termed Yedyurappa’s resignation a "victory of democracy" and said it was a day everybody should feel proud of.

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