BJP withdraws support, Kumaraswamy seeks floor test


Bangalore : Karnataka Sunday appeared headed for elections after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formally ended its 20-month alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and sought immediate polls even as Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy appealed to the governor to allow him to prove his majority.

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A day after the BJP decided in New Delhi to snap its ties with the JD-S after the latter refused to hand over power in violation of a transfer pact reached 20 months ago, a BJP delegation led by B.S. Yediyurappa, who was deputy chief minister in the coalition government, called on Governor Rameshwar Thakur.

Yediyurappa, who would have succeeded Kumaraswamy Oct 3 if the JD-S had adhered to the power sharing deal, submitted to the governor a letter notifying the BJP legislators’ withdrawal of support to the Kumaraswamy ministry.

The letter called for early elections to the state assembly, saying the government had been reduced to a minority.

The JD-S Sunday suffered a major setback when Mahima Patel, son of former chief minister J.H. Patel, quit as parliamentary secretary to Kumaraswamy to protest the party’s failure to honour the power-sharing pact with the BJP.

Patel, a leader from the politically powerful Lingayat community of Karnataka just as Yediyurappa is, talking to reporters hinted at leaving the party and forming his own group. Several legislators were unhappy with the developments and were discussing their future course of action, he said.

Before meeting the governor Sunday, the BJP, which considers Karnataka its biggest stronghold in south India, held a massive rally of its supporters in the city in a show of strength.

Yediyurappa later announced that he and other BJP leaders will extensively tour the state from Monday to “expose the betrayers”.

The JD-S, meanwhile, preferred a floor test in the assembly to prove majority while also insisting on early polls.

“We prefer mid-term polls,” a dejected Kumaraswamy told a news conference after a meeting with JD-S leaders.

“I will meet the governor and request him to allow me to seek the floor test as per the constitutional requirement,” he told reporters after a meeting of the JD-S legislature party.

“I should be given a chance to prove majority,” he said.

Kumaraswamy needs the support of 113 legislators for majority in the 225-member house but his party has only 51 members. While the BJP is the largest group with 79 members, the Congress has 65 members and smaller parties and independents make up the rest.

The governor can either dissolve the house and order fresh elections or invite Kumaraswamy to prove his majority in the assembly.

The Congress, on its part, urged the governor that it should be heard before he takes any decision.

The Congress was in power in alliance with the JD-S before Kumaraswamy came to power with the BJP’s support in February 2006. The Congress now favours the president’s rule and early polls to the assembly.

“The only alternative is imposition of the president’s rule and go for elections,” Congress spokesperson V.S. Ugrappa told IANS after a meeting of senior party leaders ahead of the arrival of Prithviraj Chavan, AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka affairs.

Chavan will be here Sunday night and Monday, and may call on the governor after meeting state party leaders.

“The Congress is not ready to extend support (to the Kumaraswamy government),” Ugrappa said.

“Kumaraswamy and (JD-S president) H.D. Deve Gowda themselves have said they will not seek the Congress support and we are also not ready to extend it,” he said.

Congress leaders held discussions at the residence of former chief minister and Leader of Opposition Dharam Singh for over 90 minutes Sunday after the BJP formally withdrew support to the Kumaraswamy ministry.

“No such indication,” a senior party leader who attended the meeting at Dharam Singh’s residence said when asked whether the Congress high command was against early polls to prevent the BJP from exploiting a possible sympathy factor.

Meanwhile, the resignation of Mahima Patel, son of former chief minister J.H. Patel and a leader from the powerful Lingayat community, as parliamentary secretary to the chief minister is being considered in political circles as a major set-back to the JD-S.

Patel protested the JD-S refusal to honour the power sharing deal with the BJP and told reporters he was considering leaving the party. Hinting at forming his own group, Patel said several legislators were unhappy with the developments and were discussing their future course of action.

The Lingayat factor could be critical in the days to come as the BJP plans to launch its campaign after seeking the blessings of highly revered Lingayat pontiff Shivakumara Swamy of the Siddaganga Math in Siddaganaga town, about an hour’s drive from here.

The BJP boasts of strong support from Lingayat community. Yediyurappa is also a Lingayat while Kumaraswamy belongs to the other politically influential community of Vokkaligas.