Karnataka BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa and other party MLAs flash the victory sign in the state assembly (Photo: Sharana Basappa/Mint)
Karnataka BJP president B.S. Yeddyurappa and other party MLAs flash the victory sign in the state assembly (Photo: Sharana Basappa/Mint)

Congress-JD(S) coalition government loses trust vote in Karnataka

  • The BJP Karnataka leadership is expected to meet its top brass in Delhi and decide the next move
  • The confidence motion, called by Kumaraswamy in a desperate attempt to stem the leaching of legislators, brought an end to the 425-day-old government

Bengaluru: Karnataka’s fragile coalition government stepped down on Tuesday after just over a year in power, losing its gamble of calling a trust vote in the face of a flood of defections by its legislators.

Having to battle a continuous onslaught of internal dissent and at least six attempts to destabilize it took a toll as the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led Congress-Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), coalition failed the floor test 105-99.

The confidence motion, called by Kumaraswamy in a desperate attempt to stem the leaching of legislators, brought an end to the 425-day-old government—only the fourth coalition administration in the state.

Other than the 15 members who resigned, an additional five—two independents, two Congress legislators and the lone Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA—failed to turn up for the vote.

The defeat ended—perhaps only temporarily—the political stalemate that had engulfed the state. And it potentially gives the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a coveted gateway to the south.

The collapse of the government marked a failure for the Congress, which had managed to retain power in the state with the help of the JD(S) after a fractured mandate last year.

The man at the centre of the political storm, Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), refused to resign and insisted on a trust vote despite suffering a series of setbacks after at least 15 resignations since 1 July. The move indicated that a wafer thin victory would leave the BJP just as vulnerable as the coalition has been over the last few weeks.

“Once you form the cabinet, let’s see how long you last," Kumaraswamy taunted B.S. Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s front runner to succeed him in the top job.

Kumaraswamy’s words reminding the BJP of how its last term in office (2008-13) was laden with crises, largely due to its inorganic expansion and absorbing dissidents from other parties to help form the government.

Kumaraswamy and his predecessor Siddaramaiah from the Congress told the assembly that the rebels will not be accepted into the parties’ fold if they return, forcing all 15, most of whom are currently lodged in a Mumbai hotel, to depend on the BJP to call bypolls.

“If we can manage this entire situation, don’t we know how to help them (rebels) win," said one BJP legislator, requesting not to be named.

Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy submits his resignation to Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala after losing the vote of confidence, in Bengaluru on Tuesday (Photo: PTI)
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy submits his resignation to Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala after losing the vote of confidence, in Bengaluru on Tuesday (Photo: PTI)

The trust vote debate that spanned four days saw coalition legislators level serious allegations against the BJP, including indulging in horse-trading, abducting legislators and subverting the democratic processes by offering money and ministerial positions to those who left the coalition.

Meanwhile, after small clashes broke out between Congress and BJP supporters near the state legislature, the Bengaluru Police imposed prohibitory orders for the next 48 hours across the city.

There was national resonance too with criticism of how the BJP had resorted to destabilizing non-BJP governments in the country after storming back to power with a thumping majority in the last general election.

“I don’t know whether the central leadership of the BJP would want the party to form a government in these circumstances as it will also become a victim to the same hostages to which the previous government was," said Sandeep Shastri, pro vice chancellor of Jain University and national coordinator of Lokniti Network.

The BJP state leadership is expected to meet its top brass in Delhi and decide the next move.

However, the biggest problem for the BJP is Yeddyurappa, who has proved to be difficult to manage in the past. Neither will it be easy to accommodate the demands of the rebels, who nurse ministerial aspirations.

“Operation failed but patient is alive," said a Congress MLA, expressing relief that the coalition with JD(S) had finally come to an end.

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