In 2007, he had become the chief minister in haste and had to resign in seven days as the JD(S), whose support he had assumed, refused to play ball
M Gautham Machaiah
BS Yeddyurappa of BJP is the only person after Ramakrishna Hegde to be sworn in as chief minister for the third time, but he cannot afford to breathe easy as he still has many hurdles to cross.
Though Yeddyurappa does not have the numbers on his side, Governor Vajubhai Vala invited him to form the government on the basis of BJP being the single largest party. While BJP claims the support of 104 members, the JD(S)-Congress combine says they have 118 members on their side.
On the midnight of May 16, the Congress and JD (S) had knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the swearing-in scheduled for the next morning. While declining to grant a stay, the chief justice directed Yeddyurappa to produce a copy of the letter submitted to the Governor and made it clear that the swearing in will be subject to the final orders of the court.
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Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram feels the letter which lists the names of only 104 members will seal Yeddyurappa’s fate as it is a clear admission that he does not enjoy a simple majority. If Yeddyurappa’s swearing is declared null and void, the JD (S)-Congress combine will be invited to form the government.
Some party colleagues had advised Yeddyurappa to postpone the swearing-in by a day in view of the Supreme Court orders, but being a man in a hurry, he refused. In 2007, he had become the chief minister in haste and had to resign in seven days as the JD(S), whose support he had assumed, refused to play ball.
Another scenario is that the court might not declare the swearing-in illegal, but may direct Yeddyurappa to seek a floor test at the earliest possible. While the BJP leader had sought seven days’ time to prove his majority, the large-hearted governor granted him a fortnight.
The next step would be convening the session of the legislature and the election of the Speaker. The chief minister will then have to move the vote of confidence. Usually, when there is no doubt about the majority of the government, the motion is passed by a voice-vote. But in the current situation, the opposition will press for a division of votes or a head count.
In case the BJP government is unable to prove its majority, Yeddyurappa will have to resign and hand over the baton to the JD (S)-Congress combine which, too, will have to seek a vote of confidence.
The only way Yeddyurappa can ensure a majority is by engineering defections from the JD (S) and Congress, whose MLAs are now confined to resorts. Since the anti-defection law requires two-thirds of the members to defect without attracting disqualification, the game-plan is to get about ten opposition MLAs to resign and create an artificial majority. Another option is to make them absent themselves during the vote of confidence. The BJP had resorted to a similar strategy in 2010 when it could not obtain a simple majority.
This time, both the JD (S) and Congress are certain that their MLAs will not defect. The safe custody of the Congress legislators has been given to DK Shivakumar, the same man who kept the Gujarat flock together when they were being poached during the election of Ahmed Patel to the Rajya Sabha. The Congress has also warned that it is capable of ensuring some defections from BJP.
In the process of defections and counter-defections a situation may arise where no party will be able to form the government. In such a situation, the Governor will recommend President’s rule and place the assembly under suspended animation. If even after six months no party or combine is able to form the government, the President will dissolve the assembly and order fresh elections.
Unless the present imbroglio is resolved soon, Karnataka is headed for a spell of uncertainty.(The author is a political commentator and senior journalist)
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