Three days after the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka collapsed after being defeated in a trust vote, state BJP president B S Yediyurappa was Friday sworn in as Chief Minister. Yediyurappa met Governor Vajubhai Vala in the morning to stake claim and requested him to administer the oath of office the same day.
Yediyurappa (76), Chief Minister for the fourth time, was sworn in as the only member of the BJP government at a ceremony at Raj Bhavan which top state BJP leaders attended. No central party leaders, however, were at the ceremony other than recently appointed BJP national organising secretary B L Santhosh. The Congress and JD(S) boycotted the swearing-in.
Yediyurappa said he would decide appointments to his Cabinet after consulting party president Amit Shah and announced that a special Assembly session will be called Monday to prove his majority.
Yediyurappa also reverted to the earlier English spelling of his name, which became public in his letter to Governor Vala, and later, in the official invitation for the swearing-in ceremony. Incidentally, he had changed the spelling of his name from Yediyurappa to Yeddyurappa after he had to resign as Chief Minister in 2007.
Earlier, the Chief Minister instructed heads of all departments to put on hold orders related to new projects that were issued in July by the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government until further review. He also put on hold all transfers that were cleared, but have not been executed.
ALSO READ | ‘I’ for fortune: BSY reverts to earlier spelling
Though Yediyurappa was eager to take the oath of office soon after defeating the trust vote on July 23, the BJP leadership was of the view that the Karnataka unit should wait for more clarity on the exact numbers in Assembly.
Following the disqualification of three Congress MLAs Thursday from the 225-member House (including a nominated member) by the Speaker under the anti-defection law, there are currently 222 members, where the BJP has 105 MLAs compared to 78 for Congress, 37 for JD(S), one BSP and one Independent.
Yediyurappa is heavily dependent on the Speaker disqualifying another 15 Congress and JD(S) MLAs or accepting the resignations submitted by 14 of these MLAs to survive beyond a week as CM.
In the event that the strength of the House remains at 222 at the time of the trust vote, and nearly 15 Congress-JD(S) rebels return, Yediyurappa faces the prospect of having another short-lived tenure like in May 2018 when he was CM for two days and November 2007 when he was CM for seven days and had to eventually quit without a majority.
Yediyurappa was the BJP’s first CM in south India in 2008 when the BJP won 110 seats in Karnataka under his leadership. He was, however, ousted in 2011 following charges of corruption including illegal mining and the illegal take over of government land by members of his family. The cases were later overturned by various courts.
Yediyurappa got an indication at around 9 am Friday from the BJP leadership to approach the Governor to stake his claim. “As instructed by our national president Shri Amit Shah ji and working president Shri J P Nadda ji, I have met his excellency the Governor of Karnataka to stake claim to form government,” he announced after meeting the Governor at around 10 am.
The BJP’s move to stake claim to form the government despite lacking a clear majority in the current House was greeted by barbs from the Congress and JD(S) of subversion of constitutional norms by the Governor and the BJP.
“The swearing-in Yediyurappa is unconstitutional and unethical and based on horse-trading and corrupt methods. It is a blot on democracy,” said state Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao.
“The strength of the house is 222 and the simple majority is 112 but Yediyurappa who has 105 MLAs has gone and staked claim and the Governor has undemocratically decided in a minute without any doubts that the BJP has the numbers,” said the JD(S) on social media.
One of the reasons the BJP decided to stake claim despite the lack of clear numbers, sources said, was a growing feeling of unease among a group of 14 Congress and JD(S) rebels who helped the BJP topple the Congress-JD(S) government but now fear being left high and dry in the wake of the disqualification of three of their fellow rebels by the Speaker Thursday.
By assuming power, Yediyurappa will be able to promise the rebels that he will look after their interests if they stick to their stand of opposing the Congress and JD(S) and do not get cowed into withdrawing their resignations to return to the Assembly, sources said.