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High drama as Karnataka gets new chief minister

Supreme Court convenes rare session at 2am but rejects last-minute bid to block swearing-in

  • B.S. Yeddyurappa assumes charge at the chief minister’s office in Bengaluru on Thursday.Image Credit: PTI
  • Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) workers protest against B.S. Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in, in Bengaluru on ThurImage Credit: Reuters
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New Delhi: The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s party snatched a fragile and controversial victory in a state election outside its political heartland, boosting momentum for the Hindu nationalist leader a year before national polls.

Amid high political drama, the Indian Supreme Court convened a rare session at 2am yesterday but rejected a last-minute bid to block the Bharatiya Janata Party’s BS Yeddyurappa from taking oath as Karnataka’s new chief minister.

 I am thankful to the people of the state, especially farmers and the poor, who have supported me. I am confident I will win the majority and be in power.”

 - MBS Yeddyurappa | Karnataka chief minister

 

The BJP had argued that it should get the first chance to form a government in Karnataka as it is the largest party with 104 seats. State governor Vajubhai Vala gave the right-wing party 15 days to prove it has a majority, prompting an opposition coalition of Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) to challenge the decision in supreme court. A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan adjourned more than three hours later without a decision. “In case [Yeddyurappa] is given oath in the meantime, that shall be subject to further orders of this court and final outcome of the writ petition,” it said.

During the hearing, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Congress, argued that the governor must have invited the post-poll coalition to form government as no single party secured majority. He questioned the 15-day time given to Yeddyurappa for proving majority, saying the Supreme Court had earlier said that “to give such time is to encourage the constitutional sin of poaching”. In his argument that ran for more than an hour, Singhvi also cited instances of Meghalaya, Manipur, Goa, Delhi, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir as precedents of post-poll alliances being invited to form governments.

 The BJP’s irrational insistence that it will form a government in Karnataka, even though it clearly doesn’t have the numbers, is to make a mockery of constitution.”

 - Rahul Gandhi | Congress president

 

Indian attorney-general KK Venugopal argued that everything was in the realm of “speculation” as the entire matter was still “a grey area”.

Justice Sikri asked him on what basis was the BJP claiming majority in the House: “It is not a fluid situation. In view of this arithmetic, on what basis you claim majority.” Venugopal said it was the Governor’s decision. The court also observed that it was “preposterous” to argue that before state lawmakers take oath they were not amenable to anti-defection law. “It means open invitation to horse-trading. It is preposterous [to argue] that before an elected MLA takes oath as member all this [floor crossing] is allowed,” Justice Sikri told the Attorney General.

 The murder of democracy happened the minute a desperate Congress made an ‘opportunist’ offer to the JDS, not for state but for their petty political gains.”

 -Amit Shah| BJP president

 

The bench could still overturn the BJP’s win and allow other parties to try to form government.

Yeddyruppa took oath as planned at 9am yesterday, but today [Friday] he will have to produce the two letters he had written to the governor to stake claim for government formation. The BJP leader is said to have claimed a majority support in the letters.

 Concerned over the brazen shamelessness with which the governor had murdered India’s democracy by calling the BJP to form the government.”

 -Amarinder Singh | Punjab chief minister

 

Though the final result is still uncertain, analysts said the surge in support for the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Karnataka state showed that the party’s national appeal was still growing while its strongest foe, the Congress party, continued to decline.

The BJP’s emphasis on economic development fused with appeals to Hindu nationalism has won it several states across western and northern India but has had less appeal in the south.

 Though the power hungry JDS and Congress tried to stop Yeddyurappa from becoming [chief minister], people of Karnataka held his hand.”

 -Amarinder Singh | Punjab chief minister

 

Polling had shown the BJP and Congress were evenly matched until Modi entered the campaign fray, holding 21 rallies in the final weeks.

Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst and vice-chancellor at Jain University, said the narrow win was a testament to the BJP’s superior election machine, but also confirmed Modi’s status as the most popular Indian politician in generations. “Through [Modi], the BJP has re-entered their southern bastion,” he said. “It’s a critical result because this is the only southern state where they can potentially come to power on their own, without joining with larger regional parties.”

Shastri said the result also cast the Congress party deeper into electoral decline. Though it helped found independent India and has ruled the country for much of the past 70 years, the party has now failed to retain a single state since Modi was elected. “They have suffered a huge setback,” Shastri said.

 I am glad I have left the party which is so brazenly trying to subvert democracy in Karnataka. It will do the same if it fails to get a majority in Lok Sabha in 2019.”

 -Yashwant Sinha | Ex-BJP finance minister

 

Elections for the federal lower house of parliament are expected to be held before May 2019.

Controversy’s favourite child

From the humdrum existence as a government clerk and a hardware store owner to becoming the chief minister of the state for a second time, BS Yeddyurappa has navigated the choppy waters of politics with the consummate ease of a seasoned oarsman, defying tidal waves of adversity.

A hard-boiled Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) man, 75-year-old Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa joined the Hindu right-wing organisation when he was barely 15, and cut his political teeth in the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s forerunner, in his hometown Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

The Lingayat strongman is known to have espoused the cause of farmers, something which was repeatedly referred to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election speeches.

Yeddyurappa may have landed in the hot seat in 2004 itself when the BJP emerged as the single largest party, but the Congress and JD(S) of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda cobbled together an alliance, and a government was formed under Dharam Singh.

Known for his political sagacity, Yeddyurappa joined hands with HD Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowda’s son, in 2006 and brought down the Dharam Singh government after the chief minister was indicted by Lokayukta in an alleged mining scam. In the 2008 polls, he led the party to victory, and the first BJP government in the south was formed under him.

Soon controversies swirled around Yeddyurappa over alleged abuse of office to favour his sons in allotment of land in Bengaluru. The indictment by Lokayukta in an illegal mining scam was the last straw, and he was forced to resign on July 31, 2011.

Sulking after having been made to quit, Yeddyurappa broke his decades-long association with the saffron party and formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha. However, ploughing a lonely furrow, he failed to make the KJP a force to reckon with in Karnataka politics but wrecked the BJP’s chances of retaining power in the 2013 polls. On January 9, 2014, Yeddyurappa merged his KJP with the BJP.
In the Lok Sabha elections that followed, the BJP won 19 of the state’s 28 seats, a remarkable turnaround for the party.

Notwithstanding the taint of corruption, Yeddyurappa’s status and clout grew in the BJP. On October 26, 2016, he got a huge relief when a special CBI court acquitted him, his two sons and son-in-law in a Rs400 million illegal mining case.

The Lingayat leader, however, continued to be dogged by controversies, with the anti-corruption bureau launching proceedings against him in an alleged illegal land denotification case. 

Anti-defection law

The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, also called the Anti-Defection Act, was amended in 1985 to prevent lawmakers from changing parties. Under the Act, an elected member of a party can be disqualified if ...
He voluntarily gives up his membership, or

He votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to his party’s direction and without obtaining prior permission. 

According to the law, at least two-thirds of the members of a party must favour a ‘merger.’

The following is not considered defection:

If a complete political party merges with another.

If a new political party is created by its elected members.

If the party members do not accept the merger and acts as a separate group.

There is a split opinion on who should be invited first by the governor to form the government — the single largest party or the coalition of parties. There have been episodes when the single largest party was not invited. 

In Goa, in March, 2017, BJP was invited to form the government after a post poll coalition, despite winning 12 seats against 17 by the Congress. 

In Manipur last year, BJP won 21 seats and Congress 28, but BJP was invited to form the government in a post poll coalition. 

— By Karuna Madan Correspondent


 

Profile

Controversy’s favourite child

From the humdrum existence as a government clerk and a hardware store owner to becoming the chief minister of the state for a second time, BS Yeddyurappa has navigated the choppy waters of politics with the consummate ease of a seasoned oarsman, defying tidal waves of adversity.

A hard-boiled Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) man, 75-year-old Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa joined the Hindu right-wing organisation when he was barely 15, and cut his political teeth in the Jana Sangh, the BJP’s forerunner, in his hometown Shikaripura in Shivamogga district.

The Lingayat strongman is known to have espoused the cause of farmers, something which was repeatedly referred to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election speeches.

Yeddyurappa may have landed in the hot seat in 2004 itself when the BJP emerged as the single largest party, but the Congress and JD(S) of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda cobbled together an alliance, and a government was formed under Dharam Singh.

Known for his political sagacity, Yeddyurappa joined hands with HD Kumaraswamy, Deve Gowda’s son, in 2006 and brought down the Dharam Singh government after the chief minister was indicted by Lokayukta in an alleged mining scam. In the 2008 polls, he led the party to victory, and the first BJP government in the south was formed under him.

Soon controversies swirled around Yeddyurappa over alleged abuse of office to favour his sons in allotment of land in Bengaluru. The indictment by Lokayukta in an illegal mining scam was the last straw, and he was forced to resign on July 31, 2011.

Sulking after having been made to quit, Yeddyurappa broke his decades-long association with the saffron party and formed the Karnataka Janata Paksha. However, ploughing a lonely furrow, he failed to make the KJP a force to reckon with in Karnataka politics but wrecked the BJP’s chances of retaining power in the 2013 polls. On January 9, 2014, Yeddyurappa merged his KJP with the BJP.

In the Lok Sabha elections that followed, the BJP won 19 of the state’s 28 seats, a remarkable turnaround for the party.

Notwithstanding the taint of corruption, Yeddyurappa’s status and clout grew in the BJP. On October 26, 2016, he got a huge relief when a special CBI court acquitted him, his two sons and son-in-law in a Rs400 million illegal mining case.

The Lingayat leader, however, continued to be dogged by controversies, with the anti-corruption bureau launching proceedings against him in an alleged illegal land denotification case.

Fallout

Opposition stakes claim for government in Bihar

Patna: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav yesterday said he will meet Bihar governor Satyapal Malik today to stake claim to form the government as the leader of the single largest party in the state Assembly. “I will meet the Governor along with our MLAs as we are the single largest party in Bihar,” tweeted Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the Opposition leader in the Bihar Assembly. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader said that if the Bharatiya Janata Party was invited by the Karnataka Governor to form the government on grounds that it was the single largest party, then RJD also had the right to form the government. “We will request the Bihar Governor to dismiss the state government and invite the RJD to form the government,” he said. Meanwhile, RJD leader and former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh announced protests across the state today to protest against what he called the “murder of democracy in Karnataka”.

Congress asks to form government in Goa

Panaji: The Congress in Goa yesterday demanded that Governor Mridula Sinha follow in the footsteps of her Karnataka counterpart Vajubhai Vala and invite the Congress, which emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly after the 2017 Assembly elections, to form the government. “If the Karnataka Governor can invite the BJP, the single largest party to form the government, why can’t the Goa Governor invite the Congress, the single largest party in Goa, to form the government here? Why two criteria for two states? We request Her Excellency to follow big brother Karnataka Governor and invite the Congress to form the Goa government to rectify a wrong,” Congress state President Girish Chodankar said. 

Congress seeks recall of Karnataka governor

Bengaluru: The Congress yesterday sought the recall of Governor of Karnataka Vajubhai Vala, after BJP legislature party leader B S Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the chief minister. The Congress, which in alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) had made a bid to form the government in the state, referred to a 2011 tweet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the recall of the then Karnataka governor and said, “We agree”. “Governor of Karnataka is bent upon destroying India’s federal structure, urged PM to ask the President to recall him,” Modi, who was then the Gujarat chief minister, had tweeted on May 19, 2011. Modi and his BJP had sought the recall of the then governor, HR Bhardwaj, alleging that he was “harassing” the BJP-led state government and “acting in a partisan manner”. 
— Compiled from PTI & IANS

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