Bengaluru: After a trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly that spanned four days and several twists and turns, HD Kumaraswamy on Tuesday stepped down as chief minister. When Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar put the confidence motion moved by Kumaraswamy to vote, the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance polled 99 votes and the opposition BJP 105. Nine MLAs, including 17 from the JDS and the Congress, were absent.
State BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa, who had to quit within 56 hours after being sworn in as the chief minister in May last year, is likely to be back at the helm after his seventh attempt at the coalition yielded the desired results.
It was clear in the morning that the HDK government was on its way out. After all his attempts to woo the rebel MLAs back, Kumaraswamy decided to quit after losing the trust vote. In an emotional speech, Kumaraswamy admitted that he lacked majority.
Until the final day, the Gowdas were hoping for a miracle and had successfully forced the Speaker to drag out the confidence motion over four days. When everything went against them, Kumaraswamy was left with no other option but to quit.
The Karnataka drama also exposed several loopholes in the anti-defection law and most Congress and JDS leaders spent hours explaining that during the trust vote.
The Congress and the JDS had served a three-line whip to all the missing MLAs and the Speaker to take a call on their disqualification.
Immediately after the voting, a euphoric Yeddyurappa declared he would lead a BJP government in the state. Considering the ground situation, it will not be so easy until he manages to touch the halfway mark of 113 in the 224-member Assembly.
Till the by-polls, Karnataka is likely to have a stable government for a brief period. The wounded JDS and the Congress may fight back in the by-polls and make it difficult for the BJP.
But there are also doubts over the whether the JDS-Congress alliance will continue after today’s fall. It is a known fact that the Congress was not comfortable with its alliance, and this worsened after the drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
If they decide to go their separate ways after today’s defeat in the Assembly, the BJP can try to wean away more MLAs from both parties. The Narendra Modi-led strong government at the Centre may help the BJP in Karnataka to retain power in adverse conditions.
A majority in the Congress was not enthusiastic about the trust vote and wanted the party to severe ties with the JDS to prevent further erosion in the Old Mysore region. Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah was also not eager to save the government of the Gowdas and was forced by the party high command to play a lead role till the last minute.
A leaderless Congress will definitely find it difficult to boost the morale of its rank and file once its members occupy the Opposition benches. Leaving the JDS alliance may be good for the Congress in the next Assembly elections, but it will currently have to struggle to keep the flock together.
The JDS is staring at a bleak future as some of its hard-core MLAs have crossed over to the BJP and the Gowdas are facing the worst crisis in their family history in the last 12 years.
The BJP has decimated the JDS in its own stronghold of old Mysore region in the Parliament elections and wresting the ceded space back is not going to be an easy task. Party patriarch and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s age and Kumaraswamy’s ill health are also worrying factors for the party.
Between 2008 and 2013, the BJP had seen three chief ministers, including Yeddyurappa, going to prison in a corruption case. The government was chaotic from the beginning to the end. With two dozen defectors from the JDS and the Congress, will the BJP be able to provide a stable government? One has to wait and see.