Bengaluru: Karnataka’s primary and secondary education minister N. Mahesh, the sole face of the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government resigned from the state cabinet on Thursday.

Mahesh’s exit from the cabinet has added to the woes of the Congress, which is trying to consolidate opposition parties to take on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The BSP had a pre-poll alliance in the May assembly elections with the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. The two parties had bagged a total of 38 seats.

“I have resigned and will not be part of the government. However, I will continue to support Kumaraswamy. I will also campaign wherever the JD(S) is contesting in the by-polls," Mahesh said.

The BSP leader said that he resigned to be able to focus on his constituency and build the party in the state. However, by not mentioning the Congress or any support to the national party, Mahesh’s exit from the cabinet appears to have been driven by the BSP’s decision to pull out of the Mahagathbandhan led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Earlier this month, Mayawati had announced that the BSP is pulling out of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh following a dispute over seat sharing.

“We have an alliance only with the JD(S). We have nothing to do with the Congress," Ashok Siddharth, senior BSP leader and Rajya Sabha member said on Thursday.

Mahesh, who entered the cabinet as part of the JD(S) quota in the post-poll alliance, had earlier hit out at both the JD(S) and Congress saying that their existence was based on caste system and inequality, Press Trust of India reported on 4 October.

“The BSP has an alliance with the JD(S), not with us. We do not know why he has taken this decision," said Dinesh Gundu Rao, president of the Congress in Karnataka.

Dissent within the Congress over selection of ministers and the much delayed cabinet expansion had threatened to destabilise the coalition government, four months since it came into being with the sole purpose of keeping the BJP out of power in Karnataka.

Mahesh’s exit takes up the total vacancies to eight in the 34 ministries.

Narendar Pani, political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) said that the BSP has to separate itself from the coalition government to build the party to win favour of the Dalits. Pani adds that Mahesh’s exit would also help the BSP keep its options open as its best chance would the formation of a third front.