On Wednesday evening, after the poll results were out, BJP chief Amit Shah, addressing party workers, said that Karnataka’s would be “the 15th consecutive election that the BJP is going to win”. Two days later, on Friday night, Shah conveyed to the BJP’s state unit and its leaders that the party might not get the numbers. And on Saturday, once the oath-taking had started inside the Assembly, Shah conveyed to B S Yeddyurappa that he should resign before the confidence vote. Between these, sources said, lies a story of a party rushing in to trip and fumble.
In fact, among the “mistakes” the party made after it emerged with the highest tally of 104 was “the haste” with which it decided to approach the Governor seeking invitation to form the government. This led to an “unexpected unity among the Opposition parties and their rush to secure their MLAs making them absolutely inaccessible to the BJP,” sources said.
While a section blamed the state leaders — led by Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu who joined hands just ahead of the election and were brought together by party general secretary P Muralidhar Rao — for failing to “deliver”, another section pointed out that “over-confidence” in the leadership was behind the “mistakes” that led to the BJP not getting the requisite support.
Once the leadership was convinced that the numbers weren’t there — the party needed seven MLAs to get simple majority — it asked Yeddyurappa to step down after a speech without facing the vote. Because, sources said, the party had “already damaged” its image with a number of audiotapes coming out with its leaders trying to get Opposition MLAs. “The party wanted Yeddyurappa to project himself as a leader who was denied the CM’s post despite getting the mandate. It should help the party in the 2019 elections,” said a leader.
However, some BJP leaders admitted that they had overly relied on what they saw as “internal differences” in the Congress and the JD(S) as well as the “contradictions” on the ground between the two parties. Some were convinced that Lingayat MLAs in the Congress would not accept a Vokkaliga (H D Kumaraswamy) as the CM.
Until Friday evening, in fact, the BJP leaders were “extremely confident” that they would be able to “manage” the numbers. But every leader The Indian Express has spoken with could not come up with a specific answer to the question: “how”.
Rather, the leaders flashed “the Amit Shah” card, indicating that the party president, known for his political shrewdness, would deliver.
However, Shah, who spent more than a month in the state strategising and leading the campaign, did not go to Bengaluru but sent his trusted leaders Union Ministers J P Nadda and Dharmendra Pradhan to help Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister in charge of the election, and Rao to see that the BJP gets the numbers.
Said a party source: “No decision nor a step was taken without the consent of the central leadership. Every move was made after consulting the leadership.”
“We were over-confident,” admitted Suresh Angadi, senior BJP leader and MP from Belgaum. “We were thinking we would get the majority even at 12 o’ clock on counting day. Whereas the Congress became alert and forged an alliance with the JD(S). We were wrong.” Speaking to The Indian Express, Angadi added: “There was also over confidence that the party would get 120-125 in the Assembly.”
However, Angadi justified BJP’s move to approach the Governor. “We had the mandate, we were short by just a few numbers. The Congress was reduced to almost half and the JD-S’s tally also had come down.”
P C Gaddigoudar, BJP MP from Bagalkot, said that the party “counted heavily” on the hope of “defections” from the Congress and the JD(S). “There were too many contradictions between the two parties. The BJP was sure that there would be defections,” Gaddigoudar said.
Sources said that there are contradictions between the two but both allies stuck together. The Supreme Court stepping in, its fixing of the date and time for the trust vote and throwing it open to the public, virtually sealed the BJP’s fate.
Another party MP Pratap Simha, who termed the coming together of Congress and JD(S) as “opportunism,” said: “We are fully confident that this will not last. They have been fighting each other, calling each other names,” Simha said.