Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. Photo: AFP
Karnataka CM B.S. Yeddyurappa. Photo: AFP

B.S. Yeddyurappa takes oath as CM, vows farm loan waiver in 2 days

Yeddyurappa said that loans taken by weavers would also be waived, as promised in the BJP's election manifesto

Bengaluru: B.S. Yeddyurappa, the 75-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, was sworn in as the 23rd chief minister of Karnataka on Thursday by governor Vajubhai Vala.

Vala invited Yeddyurappa to form the government on Wednesday evening and gave him 15 days to prove his majority on the floor of the House.

This is Yeddyurappa’s third innings as chief minister. His first stint lasted barely a week from 12-19 November in 2007, while the second was from 30 May 2009 to 4 August 2011.

The swearing-in ceremony took place amid protests and allegations that governor Vala behaved in a partisan manner by ignoring claims made by Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), that together had the required numbers to form the government.

The Congress and the JD(S), with a combined strength of 117 legislators, joined forces in a post-poll alliance to keep the BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party, from forming the government and adding Karnataka to its list of recent electoral conquests.

The BJP won 104 seats, while the Congress got 78 and the JD(S) 38 (including one of the Bahujan Samaj Party with which it had a pre-poll alliance). One independent and another candidate from the newly-formed Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party were also among the winners in 222 seats that went to the polls on 12 May.

Yeddyurappa, who took oath in the name of God and farmers, was quick to announce that he would waive off farm loans up to Rs1 lakh in the next one or two days.

“I had said that within 24 hours of my becoming chief minister I will waive loans. I’ve informed chief secretary, who said she will look into the matter and by tomorrow (Friday) or day after, I’ll come through on my promise (of farm loan waiver)," Yeddyurappa said at his first press conference after taking over as CM.

He added that even loans taken by weavers would be waived off as promised in the party’s election manifesto.

The JD(S) and the BJP had announced farm loan waivers in their respective election manifestos while the Congress had relied on its June 2017 decision to waive off Rs8,165 crore of farm loans to lure the over 40-million-strong farming community in the state.

However, it remains unclear whether the announcement will be valid until Yeddyurappa can prove his majority.

“As soon as possible, I will convene floor test, and won’t wait for 15 days," Yeddyurappa said, declining to share details as the matter was sub-judice.

The invitation to the BJP to form the government was contested by both the Congress and the JD(S) in the Supreme Court late on Wednesday. The Supreme Court, which held a four-hour midnight hearing, declined to stay Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony and will hear the case again on 18 May.

As soon as Yeddyurappa assumed office, many IPS and IAS officers were transferred from key posts on Thursday. This included naming senior advocate Prabhuling K. Navadgi as the new Advocate General of Karnataka.

Sudhir Krishnaswamy, a political analyst, constitutional expert and faculty at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru said that the Supreme Court had only allowed the swearing-in of Yeddyurappa and no one else. “That gives you the impression that this is a caretaker government, till he gets his majority. In that sense, the question of whether he (Yeddyurappa) has the executive authority to do this (announce farm loan waiver) is a valid question," he said. However, he added that there is no clear constitutional or legal provision that prohibits Yeddyurappa from making such an announcement.

The BJP is currently eight legislators short of the revised simple majority figure of 112, that is expected to further go down when H.D. Kumaraswamy, who won from two seats, vacates one of them.

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