Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Monday sailed through the floor test in the legislative assembly, with the victory likely to sound the death knell of the coalition between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).
The victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the floor test through a voice vote, helped 76-year-old Yediyurappa break the jinx of not being able to muster a majority in at least two of the four attempts he has had at the top office. Very few legislators raised their hands against the motion of trust in the government.
“When Siddaramaiah and H.D. Kumaraswamy were chief ministers they didn’t indulge in vindictive politics. The administration has failed and we will set it right. I give an assurance in the House that we won’t indulge in vindictive politics either. I believe in forget and forgive," Yediyurappa said, extending an olive branch to the coalition in the hope of getting the Opposition on his side to help him for the remainder of the term.
The Opposition, however, tore into the BJP. “I oppose the confidence motion as it was immoral and unconstitutional," Congress leader Siddaramaiah said. He was followed by Kumaraswamy, who said the new government should thank the 17 disqualified legislators with whom the BJP allegedly conspired to bring down the coalition.
It will not be smooth sailing for Yediyurappa, who will not only have to face attacks by Opposition leaders, but will also have to focus on other challenges from within its own organisation. The chief minister will also have to tackle the drought and acute shortage of drinking water, besides other pressing problems in a state, which has been starved of governance for weeks, if not months.
Karnataka had been in the clutches of a political crisis caused by differences within the coalition, besides external factors. The coalition, which is now in a shambles, has alleged that the BJP had engineered the crisis lending to theories that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah were trying to destabilize non-BJP governments.
Congress and the JD(S) are not likely to make life any easier for Yediyurappa as the BJP enjoys only a slender majority and finds itself as vulnerable as the coalition had been in recent weeks.
The BJP is cautious not to repeat the mistakes it had made earlier, but will have to depend on the loyalty of the rebels to keep it in power for the remainder of the four-year term. The party will now have the additional burden of placating disqualified former legislators and win most of the vacant seats when the state heads for bypolls. The 17 former members of legislative assembly (MLAs), disqualified from contesting the bypolls, will now have to depend on the Supreme Court for relief and the BJP to return to the assembly.
The challenge for the BJP is that it will have to placate the rebels by denying positions to its own members and this could give rise to dissent within the party.
Meanwhile, speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar resigned from his post after the floor test and the passage of the finance bill, which saw token objections. Yediyurappa said he was passing the budget presented by Kumaraswamy without any change, but got a vote on account only for the next three months. The Opposition objected to the vote on account, but let the bills pass.
The BJP is likely to nominate K.G. Bopaiah, its legislator from Virajpet, for the speaker’s post when the assembly reconvenes on Wednesday.