BENGALURU, July 26: Karnataka BJP leader B S Yediyurappa was sworn in as chief minister for a fourth time on Friday in a sudden twist to the protracted high political drama in the state. However, the chief minister faces a big challenge to manage the numbers and prove majority on the floor of the House.
Yediyurappa took oath alone, succeeding H D Kumaraswamy three days after the Congress-JD(S) coalition government crumbled under the weight of a rebellion by a big chunk of its lawmakers.
Kumaraswamy had lost the motion of confidence in the state assembly.
Governor Vajubhai Vala administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 76-year old Yediyurappa, credited with leading the BJP to its first ever government in the south in 2008, at a brief function in the Raj Bhavan in the evening.
Speaking to reporters after taking oath, Yediyurappa said he would move the motion of confidence in the assembly on July 29.
“The Karnataka assembly session will be called on July 29, Monday at 10am for moving confidence motion and for the passage of the finance bill,” he said, adding “The legislative council would begin its proceedings on July 30.
The Lingayat strongman’s move to stake claim for the government formation came as a sudden development on Friday morning, a day after three rebel MLAs were disqualified by the assembly speaker K R Ramesh Kumar.
Speaking about the sudden turn of events on government formation, Yediyurappa told BJP workers before the swearing in that party national president and home minister
Amit Shah spoke to him over phone in the morning and asked him to prepare for the oath on Friday.
The BJP veteran, who changed the spelling of his name from Yeddyurappa to Yediyurappa is making it to the mantle of chief ministership 14 months after he demitted the coveted office being unable to prove the majority in the state assembly.
He takes over as CM after weeks of murky political drama and legal battle triggered by the resignation of 15 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs that eventually led to the fall of the coalition government headed by Kumaraswamy on Tuesday.
In May 2018, he survived barely for three days before stepping down as chief minister as he was unable to shore up numbers for majority despite the BJP having emerged as the single largest party in the assembly polls that threw up a hung verdict.
In Delhi, BJP working president J P Nadda dismissed opposition’s claim that his party engineered defections to bring down the coalition government and said it fell due to its internal reasons and asserted the saffron party will provide a stable regime.
On Yediyurappa, being over the 75-year age bar the party has stipulated for its leaders holding any government position, Nadda said the Karnataka veteran was the leader of the BJP legislature party in the state and was natural for him to be the party’s choice for the chief minister’s post.
Replying to questions from reporters, he said “It depends … you see, first of all he is a leader, he is an elected leader of the legislature party. Accordingly, he is taking oath. It is a continuous process and the party takes note of ongoing developments from time to time.”
Yediyurappa became the chief minister for the first time in November 2007 but his term in office lasted just seven days as Kumaraswamy reneged on a power sharing arrangement and walked out of the JD(S)-BJP alliance then.
He assumed the high office very next year after the BJP came to power on its own but had to step down in July, 2011 following his indictment by the then Lokayukta N Santosh Hegde in an illegal mining case.
The day’s drama unfolded when Yediyurappa made a sudden announcement in the morning that he would meet the governor to stake claim to form the government on Friday itself and rushed to the Raj Bhavan.
Soon thereafter, he emerged out of the meeting with Vala with a letter from the governor inviting him to form the government.
“I have requested Governor to administer me oath between 6pm and 6.15pm as the chief minister. The governor has agreed and has given me a letter,” Yediyurappa told reporters.
The BJP leader also said as he is already leader of the opposition, there is no need to call a Legislature Party meeting to elect him the leader of the party in the assembly.
Proving majority in the assembly, winning by-elections to seats vacated by the resignation of rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs or their possible disqualification, and ministry formation will pose tough challenges for Yediyurappa, senior BJP leaders said.
Yediyurappa has to play a balancing act by ensuring that those within the party are not sidelined, while also accommodating the rebel Congress-JD(S) legislators, they added.
After the disqualification of three rebel Congress MLAs, the current strength of the 225-member assembly excluding the speaker is 221 and the half-way mark 111.
The BJP has 106 MLAs along with one independent, the Congress has 76 (including MLAs who have resigned and those whose disqualification plea is pending), the JD(S) has 37 MLAs (including resigned and pending disqualification), one BSP, one nominated member and the speaker, who has a casting vote in case of a tie.
The speaker is yet to decide on the resignations of 14 MLAs and disqualification petitions against them. Three rebel MLAs are from the JD(S) while the rest are from the Congress. The speaker had on Thursday disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs.
In the trial of strength on Tuesday, 105 members had voted against the confidence motion and 99 in favour with 20 members being absent.
As political uncertainty continued to hover over the state even after the fall of the JD(S)-Congress ministry, BJP leadership was awaiting “instructions” from party’s central leadership to stake claim for forming the government, which finally came on Friday.
In his letter to the governor staking claim, Yediyurappa noted at present the BJP’s strength is 105 and it was the single largest party in the assembly.
“Therefore, I request your Excellency, I may be invited to form alternate government today itself and I will take oath as chief minister of Karnataka at Raj Bhavan between 6pm and 6.15pm,” the letter said.
The Congress slammed the move for government formation, saying that since the BJP did not have the numerical strength, it could not stake claim nor take the oath for any reason.
“Corruption Icon and Former Jail Bird Shri @BSYBJP has used his excellent Horse Trading skills to subvert democracy and come to power,” the state Congress tweeted.
Condemning the BJP’s move, former chief minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said Karnataka has become an experimental lab of the BJP.
“In what article of the Constitution is the governor allowed to permit the party to form govt that doesn’t have majority? It is shame!!” he tweeted.
The JD(S) dubbed the governor’s decision to permit the BJP leader to take oath without raising any questions on the numbers as “anti-democratic”. (PTI)