As BS Yediyurappa faces a vote of confidence as new chief minister, the JDS is struggling with mutiny in its ranks
Karnataka has now achieved the dubious distinction of improving its 2010 performance and landing up just one short of Tamil Nadu in terms of disqualification of members of the legislative assembly.
Unlike Tamil Nadu, whose assembly Speaker disqualified 18 members in one go, Karnataka has disqualified 17 members within three days for the same reasons which, in layperson’s language, is in violation of the anti-defection law.
In 2010, Karnataka held the record for disqualification of 16 MLAs of the BJP. Soon, Tamil Nadu overtook Karnataka when 18 of its MLAs quoted from the Karnataka disqualification issue but the case went in favour of the AIADMK MLAs.
But the disqualification does not, in any way, impact on the vote of confidence motion being moved by BS Yediyurappa, chief minister and BJP leader.
With the disqualification of 17 members, the strength of the assembly falls from 225 (including the Nominated Anglo Indian member who has a right to vote) to 208.
The BJP will have to only cross the magic figure of 104 to win the vote of confidence. And, it already has 105 of its own plus the lone Independent member who has already given a letter in support of the BJP to the Governor.
After the loss due to disqualification, the Congress number stands at 65 and the JDS figure has come down from 37 to 34. In short, it means that Yediyurappa will win the vote of confidence.
The BJP would have to win, at least, 8 to 10 of these seats when by-elections are held to the 17 seats which, in all probability, are expected in December along with assembly elections in states like Maharashtra.
But, sooner than later, the BJP is expected to feel comfortable. This is because a section of the MLAs from the Janata dal Secular (JDS) have suggested to their leadership that it should support the BJP.
Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has, formally, denied it through social media.
But party insiders say that the matter is quite serious among the legislators who are planning to do what Congress party men did in Goa by causing a split in the party and moving over to the BJP.
The angst in the party is largely aimed at not only against Kumaraswamy but also his brother who held the public works portfolio, HD Revanna.
Even loyalists of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, who has assiduously built the party the last few decades, admit privately that the situation is quite grim within the party.
“It was not party rule but family rule. There was no point in being even ministers because the files would never come to the minister concerned. He would only be asked to sign it without asking questions,” said AH Vishwanath, who is one of those disqualified.
Vishwanath agreed to be quoted on this but those who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted that what he was saying was correct. “It has been a disturbing aspect of the administration during the last 14 months that the coalition government survived,” said one legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Members of the JDS privately admit – “Please do not be surprised if 22 of the 34 MLAs split the party and move over to the BJP. It may not happen today during the course of the vote of confidence but in the next few days or couple of weeks.”
On the other hand, the BJP is keeping a close watch on the developments within the JDS. “First, we will be watching who will boycott the assembly session when Yediyurappa takes the vote of confidence,” said one BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
“We are very clear that we will not be seeking the support of the JDS. In the event of the JDS split, our national and state leaders will decide the future course of action,” said N Ravikumar, party spokesperson for the BJP.
In short, now that the government has been formed by the sheer advantage of being the single largest party in the assembly, the BJP’s next aim is to consolidate its position in power.