BJP begins innings in south, tough times ahead


Bangalore : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s dream of ruling a southern state was realised Monday with B.S. Yeddyurappa sworn in as Karnataka chief minister but the celebrations were tempered with coalition partner Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) choosing to join the ministry at a later date.

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A host of BJP national leaders led by party chief Rajnath Singh and L.K. Advani witnessed Governor Rameshwar Thakur administering oath of office — in Kannada and in the name of god and farmers of the state — to the 64-year-old leader.

Four senior party leaders, Govind M. Karajol, V.S. Acharya, Jagadish Shettar and R. Ashok, took oath as ministers at an all-BJP show. Yeddyurappa is the 25th chief minister of Karnataka.

The nation’s IT hub turned saffron for the oath-taking ceremony that was marked by jubilation — a blast of fire crackers, drumbeats, blowing of trumpets and folk dances by dozens of troupes and artistes.

JD-S chief Deve Gowda stayed away from the function but his son and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy was present along with several of his party legislators.

Congress leaders too stayed away from the ceremony as the party was observing the day as “black day”.

Yeddyurappa held a cabinet meeting soon after taking oath and announced that he would prove his majority on Nov 23.

“We wanted to do this in two or three days time. But since our JD-S friends wanted time to join the ministry, we will take the floor test after they are sworn in,” he told reporters at his first press meet as chief minister.

“We have the support of 129 legislators and three or four more have informed they will back us,” Yeddyurappa said.

Meanwhile, Deve Gowda late Monday “threatened” to extend only outside support to the BJP in a bid to quell infighting among several party legislators aspiring for ministerial berths in the Yeddyurappa ministry.

A senior JD-S leader told IANS on phone that Gowda was using the threat as pressure tactics to not only make the BJP agree to his 12 conditions to run the coalition government, but also serve notice on his legislators squabbling for cabinet berths.

“There is lot of infighting in the party over the selection of legislators for ministerial posts, including that of deputy chief minister. Gowda is under tremendous pressure from party leaders and his two sons – H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna — on who should be selected or dropped,” a party leader said on request of anonymity.

A group of 22 legislators aspiring to become ministers in the BJP-led government have petitioned Gowda to drop at least a dozen ministers who were part of the Kumaraswamy government and “enjoyed” power.

“As the feud within the party may send a wrong signal to the alliance partner, Gowda has reportedly told his sons and senior party leaders that he would rather extend outside support to BJP than deciding who should represent JD-S in the Yeddyurappa ministry,” the senor leader said.

The swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the stately Vidhana Soudha (state secretariat) was also watched by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj.

Deve Gowda has placed 12 conditions, termed as ‘suggestions’, for the stability and smooth functioning of the government over the next 19 months, after which the assembly elections are due.

He wants the BJP to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on his 12 ‘suggestions’ but the party is not keen on it. Since Deve Gowda has sent a draft of his MoU to BJP president Rajnath Singh, other party leaders have said Singh would handle it.

To the chagrin of BJP, the JD-S Sunday announced that none from the party would take oath Monday. Till Sunday afternoon it was expected that a JD-S nominee would be sworn in as deputy chief minister along with Yeddyurappa.

“All 18 nominees of JD-S will take oath together at a later date,” Kumaraswamy announced Sunday, forcing Yeddyurappa and state BJP chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda to rush to Deve Gowda to plead with him to allow his party man to be sworn in on Monday.

Deve Gowda did not relent.

Kumaraswamy did not give any reason for the party’s last-minute decision, leading to speculation that Deve Gowda wants an understanding to be reached in writing on his 12 suggestions.

His suggestions include a powerful role for Kumaraswamy in decision-making, including transfer of senior officials.

Monday’s swearing-in ended the president’s rule imposed on Oct 9, the day after Kumaraswamy resigned as BJP pulled out of the alliance in protest against his refusal to make way for Yeddyurappa as per an agreement reached by the two parties in February 2006. The 225-member assembly had been kept under suspended animation.

Of the 129 supporting legislators, 79 belong to his party, one is an associate member of the party and the rest are from the JD-S.

Among the first decisions taken by the new cabinet is reappointment of Uday Holla as advocate general. Holla had resigned soon after the Kumaraswamy ministry collapsed.

Yeddyurappa said his government will be pro-farmer but the IT and BT sectors will also get priority treatment.

He promised to protect the interests of minorities, weaker sections and women and work to make Karnataka a model state.

On tackling the difficult coalition partner, Yeddyurappa said: “We will soon set up a coordination committee in consultation with Kumaraswamy. It will meet often to sort out any differences.”

Referring to Deve Gowda’s absence at the oath-taking ceremony, he said he had to go to Delhi on some urgent work. “He is returning in the evening and I will meet him and seek guidance in running the government.”

“I had telephoned state Congress chief Mallikharjun Kharge, leader of opposition in the assembly N. Dharam Singh and leader of opposition in the legislative council H.K. Patil. They could not attend as they had other business to attend to but have promised full cooperation,” Yeddyurappa said.

He said he would soon meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and central ministers to seek early clearance of pending state projects. “We will work in harmony with the centre for the overall development of the state.”