Bangalore: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka rode a thin lead to win a second trust motion on Thursday.
Opposition parties Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), have labelled the victory as temporary, saying the outcome could change when the Karnataka high court pronounces its verdict on petitions filed by disqualified assembly members.
Show of strength: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa (centre) with other BJP legislators flashing victory signs after the trust vote. PTI
The BJP won with 106 votes to 100 against in a diluted state assembly.
The effective strength of the 224-member Karnataka assembly was reduced to 208 when the speaker K.G. Bopaiah disqualified 11 rebel BJP legislators and five independent members ahead of the first trust vote on 11 October, on a petition by the BJP alleging that they had indulged in anti-party activities.
The Karnataka high court will on 18 October hear the rebel members’ petitions challenging the disqualifications.
The B.S. Yeddyurappa-led government claimed victory in an acrimonious and contentious first trust vote, but it was overruled by governor H.R. Bhardwaj citing procedural irregularities.
The governor initially recommended President’s rule in Karnataka but subsequently directed the state government to move a new trust motion by 14 October.
On Thursday, two members—M.C. Ashwath of the JD(S) from Channapatna and Mannappa Vajjal of the BJP from Lingsugur—abstained from voting.
The BJP has asked the speaker to disqualify Vajjal, who has identified himself with the rebels, for defying the party whip. The JD(S) said it has not decided yet what action to take against Ashwath.
Chief minister Yeddyurappa said his government would now focus on providing a stable government.
In October 2009, Yeddyurappa’s government faced a severe crisis after the Galli Reddy brothers, mining barons from Bellary district, led a revolt against his state leadership with the support of 47 legislators. The revolt was contained after the intervention of the BJP’s central leadership and a reshuffle of the state cabinet. The chief minister now has the backing of the Reddy brothers.
On Thursday, both Yeddyurappa and K.S. Eshwarappa, president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP, reiterated the party’s demand to recall Bhardwaj for his “partisan” conduct.
Addressing a joint press conference, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, S. Siddaramiah of the Congress party, and JD(S) leader H.D. Revanna said the state government would fall once the HC delivers its verdict.
A senior lawyer, who did not want to be identified as the matter is pending before the high court, said the speaker’s decision to disqualify the independent members may not be tenable under the anti-defection Act.
“While the BJP may disqualify its 11 rebel MLAs (members of legislative assembly) since they don’t constitute a third of the party to break away, disqualification of the independents is a grey area,” he said. “The government may still have to face a fresh vote of confidence if either of the petitions goes against the speaker’s decision as the margin today is a mere six votes.”
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the Karnataka government would not be affected even if the disqualified lawmakers were allowed to vote.
“Two MLAs—one from the JD(S) and one from the BJP—abstained from voting. If that is so, then the factual strength of the assembly is 206 and the majority mark 103. Even if we presume that on October 18, the court allows the independent MLAs to vote, we would still have 106 MLAs and the vote of the speaker, giving us a majority in a house of 213 members,” Rudy said.
PTI contributed to this story.