Home India News Countdown to Karnataka crisis and road ahead

Countdown to Karnataka crisis and road ahead


Bangalore : Half-way through its term, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first government in Karnataka and south India is fast becoming a regime constantly worrying about its stability.

Dismissed for years as a party confined to north India and Gujarat with little hope of penetrating the south, the party seized power in Karnataka in May 2008 – with the help of independent legislators.

And the spectre of instability started from Day 1.

The party won 110 seats in the 225-member house that includes a nominated legislator.

Six independents help the party to reach the majority mark of 113 and five of them were rewarded with cabinet berth.

Long-time party members aspiring for ministry felt ignored but were made to keep quiet in the larger interest of the party, which saw Karnataka as gateway to south India.

Rather than carrying on with the tenuous arrangement of depending on the independents for survival, the party went for the jugular to get majority on its own – by luring opposition lawmakers.

The bid to get majority was named ‘Operation Lotus’.

Seven Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) members quit the assembly in 2008 and 2009, contested the by-polls as BJP nominees and won – giving the party a majority on its own with 117 members in the 225-seat house.

Most of them were made ministers, further angering the party loyalists.

The first major revolt was in October-November last year when mining magnates and ministers G. Janaradhana Reddy, Tourism, and his elder brother G. Karunakara Reddy rebelled against Yeddyurappa.

The crisis was papered over by the intervention of senior party leader Sushma Swaraj.

A casualty of the revolt was the lone woman minister and Yeddyurappa’s close associate Shobha Karandlage, who was forced to quit the ministry.

In between the ministry was rocked with several scandals – one quit over land deals, another after being accused of rape and a third over illegalities in recruitment of non-medical staff in two government-owned medical colleges and hospitals attached to them.

In September, Yeddyurappa went for a cabinet shuffle, not only to fill three vacancies but to bring back Shobha and accommodate a few others whom he had promised ministerial posts.

There were reports that a powerful section in the party led by Bangalore South Lok Sabha member H.N. Ananthkumar was opposed to a major shake up in the ministry as that would only add to heartburn among party loyalists.

The powerful Reddys were reportedly against major changes in the cabinet, particularly dropping any minister close to them

Yeddyurappa went ahead, sacked three ministers, one of them an independent, after a high drama and inducted six on Sep 22. Shobha staged a comeback. All the three were close to the Reddys.

It was believed in political and media circles that the cabinet changes showed that Yeddyurappa had at last established firm hold on the party and shown the Reddys their place.

None had any inclination of what was brewing in the party.

On Oct 6, the rebels struck – 13 BJP lawmakers, two of who were ministers, and five independents, four of who were still in the cabinet, told Governor H. R. Bhardwaj that they had lost confidence in Yeddyruappa as he was the most corrupt chief minister the state had seen.

Two of rebels returned to the party fold.

The 11 BJP legislators and five independents were disqualified, Yeddyurappa became the first chief minister of the state to seek trust vote in the assembly twice in three days and the rebels moved the high court.

While the high court Friday upheld the disqualification of the 11 BJP rebels, the last word on it has not been said as the members will move the Supreme Court.

The fate of the independents is yet to be decided by the high court which will take up their plea against disqualification Nov 2.

In the meantime, two Congress and one Janata Dal-Secular legislators quit the assembly allegedly at the behest of the BJP.

Whichever way the Supreme Court verdict goes, first in the case of rebel BJP men and later the independents, the BJP’s first government will have to live through anxious months.

If the apex court upholds the disqualifications, then bypolls will have to held in the 16 constituencies as well as three vacated recently by the Congress and JD-S lawmakers.

Then it may be the case of winner takes it all.

In any case the political parties will be gradually moving towards the election mode as polls to the assembly are due in 2013.

That would make nearly a decade of political instability in Karnataka that started after the 2004 assembly polls that resulted in a fractured verdict leading two shortlived coalition governments.