Bengaluru: There was a perceivable air of apprehension in the Karnataka legislative assembly on Saturday, ahead of the crucial trust vote where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was gearing up to prove its majority and retain power in the state.
Many visibly tired from being herded from resort to resort in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, newly elected legislators were closely monitored by D.K.Shivakumar and his Parliamentarian brother D.K.Suresh, who were unofficially in-charge of keeping the flock together and from any prying eyes of the BJP.
Apart from the complex calculation of numbers to make up for the majority, Saturday’s battle was also fought on perception, body language and perceived confidence—all used tactfully to trounce any advances by the opponent.
With the Supreme Court mandating a trust vote for Saturday, the BJP were making last-ditch attempts to contact legislators from the Congress and its post-poll ally Janata Dal (Secular)—allegedly luring them with monetary and ministerial berths among other perks—to switch sides and help the saffron party get the required majority to retain power.
While the BJP was confident of getting at least eight members (required to take it from 104 to 112 for a majority), the Congress-JD(S) were cautious not to let its legislators stray far away from sight, fearing losing them to the rival camp.
“Naavu nimm jyothene iddhivi (I am with you people only)," a newly elected Congress legislator instinctively responded to an almost innocent question by a former minister who inquired the former’s whereabouts during a break, just before the trust vote. Legislators sparing no opportunity to prove their loyalty.
Senior congress leaders had done all they could to keep its members together but admitted that they might have two defectors—mining baron Anand Singh who was elected from Vijayanagara and Maski constituency winner Pratapgouda Patil.
After going incognito for almost three days, news that the two were holed up in a luxury hotel in Bengaluru, spread fast across the resting area beside the assembly. While some Congress leaders had conceded that the two will abstain from voting, Suresh swung into action, only to be denied entry into the hotel by the police.
“We got him through another channel,"Suresh, who walked into the press gallery about an hour later, said sounding aplomb at his feat.
By this time, the Congress had transcribed and circulated at least two call recordings on various news Whatsapp groups, purportedly made by senior BJP leaders trying to lure its members.
Looking visibly more confident than they did a few hours ago, Congress and JD (S) legislators walked in to take their respective seats only to find empty chairs on the opposite side, occupied earlier by the BJP.
Few minutes later, Shivakumar, who resembled a close relative running around a wedding home making arrangements, walked through the doors almost dragging Singh—a mining baron who enjoys a celebrity status in his home constituency. Shivakumar smiling all the way while other legislators getting in a quick word of appreciation as he passed by their seats. Shivakumar dragged mining baron Singh to former chief minister and now Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, whose confidence had soared since his defeat from Chamundeshwari in Mysuru, waving him back to his seat. It seemed like the last nail in BJP’s hope.
Distraught and with the feeling of imminent desolation, Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in as the 23rd chief minister of Karnataka just two days ago, resigned.