In May 2018, soon after the Karnataka assembly polls threw up a hung verdict, the BJP which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 224 member state legislative assembly made a bid to form the new government.
The state BJP president and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa – who will cross 75 years of age this year – served as chief minister for two days but quit ahead of a trust vote after realising that he had failed to muster the support of nine more MLAs to attain the simple majority mark of 113. The Congress (80 MLAs) and JDS (38 MLAs) who had forged an alliance soon after the election results emerged with the majority to govern.
Since the day the Congress-JDS alliance came to power, with H D Kumaraswamy as the chief minister, the BJP – especially Yeddyurappa, has been biding his time and waiting for an opportunity to be in a position to topple the coalition government.
The opportunity has come in the form of disgruntled Congress MLAs who are unhappy over being overlooked for appointments in the government. The BJP in Karnataka has over the last six months made four separate attempts to poach at least a dozen MLAs to reduce the coalition government to a minority in order to stake its own claim to power. Each time only a small group of four to six MLAs who are wealthy and capable of winning elections on their own have been enticed.
Though a large number of coalition MLAs may be unhappy over being denied positions in the government the majority are however not in a position to face another election within seven to eight months of being elected to the state assembly and have not fallen for the inducements from the BJP.
The BJP national leadership which was caught up with fighting elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh did not initially support the efforts made by the Karnataka unit of the party to lure coalition MLAs in order to topple the Congress-JDS government.
However with the emergence of a Mahagatbandhan of regional parties and the Congress in January 2019 as the chief threat to the BJP’s efforts to return to power in New Delhi the BJP national leadership has seen an opportunity to create optics around the confusion in the Karnataka coalition.
Despite the BJP not standing any real chance of coming to power in Karnataka ahead of the Lok Sabha polls the party’s leaders in Karnataka have tried to create the perception of the coalition being in the doldrums in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls by luring small numbers of coalition dissidents.
The BJP’s efforts in showing up the coalition government as being unstable turned counterproductive on Friday when Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy released audio recordings of a purported attempt made by Yeddyurappa to lure a JDS MLAs with an offer of huge funds.
The coalition has now found ammunition to accuse the BJP of being behind the efforts to destabilize the Congress-JDS government – contrary to the BJP’s earlier claims that it was internal differences in the coalition alone that was pulling the coalition apart at its seams and creating political chaos.