Karnataka: Yeddyurappa Takes Oath as Chief Minister For Fourth Time

He will have to prove majority in the Karnataka assembly by July 31.

New Delhi: By taking his oath as Karnataka chief minister on Friday evening, B.S. Yeddyurappa has finally achieved the end goal of a course he has doggedly pursued for the last one year as opposition leader in the assembly — a Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state.

The man credited with (and blamed for) engineering the whole operation that toppled the year-old Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in the state, said early in the day that he had met the governor Vajubhai Vala.

Vala administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 76-year old Yediyurappa at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan at 6 pm.

Yeddyurappa, who had given up his primary membership of the BJP in 2012, had for the last couple of days had been waiting for “instructions” from the party high command to stake claim to form the government after the H.D. Kumaraswamy government collapsed after the floor test on Tuesday. On Friday, he tweeted that his decision to take oath came after instructions from Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda.

Now that he has taken the oath, he will have to prove the BJP’s majority in the Karnataka assembly by July 31.

Until Friday, all had been relatively quiet on the BJP front since the Tuesday confidence vote. A delegation of the Karnataka wing of the BJP, including Jagdish Shettar, Arvind Limbavali, J.C. Madhuswamy, Basavaraj Bommai and Yeddyurappa’s son Vijayendra on Thursday met party chief Amit Shah in New Delhi and were understood to have discussed the process of forming the government in Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah, the Congress’s legislative party leader in Karnataka, called governor Vala’s easy acceptance of the matter, “fatal” to democracy.

More leaders and outlets of the Congress and JD(S) severely criticised the governor, calling him “BJP-backed” for allowing “corruption icon” Yeddyurappa to form the government.

Spotlight on Yeddyurappa

Yeddyurappa, who has gained the most out of the developments of the last three weeks, had once helped the very man he has unseated, Kumaraswamy, to bring down the Congress government headed by Dharam Singh in 2006. The two had entered an “understanding” back then. The JD(S) scion was to be chief minister for 20 months, followed by Yeddyurappa.

Yeddyurappa signs the register after being sworn in as Karnataka chief minister on May 17, 2018. Photo: PTI/Shailendra Bhojak

When the time for the switch came, Kumaraswamy refused to budge from his seat, causing neither the first nor the final debacle in the Karnataka government. In the days that followed, Yeddyurappa emerged victorious in forging a hasty patch up with Kumaraswamy’s troop and took oath as chief minister late in 2007. He had to resign after JD(S) withdrew support after a week over disagreements in sharing portfolios.

A week, however, is neither the longest nor the shortest period of time for which Yeddyurappa has been chief minister. Before the latest government came to power, Yeddyurappa was chief minister for two days in 2018, after BJP won the Karnataka assembly election. Within two days, however, the Congress-JD(S) coalition had formed, leading him to fail the floor test. Tuesday was therefore redemption for Yeddyurappa on many counts, but it remains to be seen if any change is permanent in a political battleground as bitter as Karnataka.

In 2008, he led the BJP to victory in the state and was made chief minister – a post he held until 2011, when he resigned after his involvement in the mining scam became known through a leaked Lokayukta report.

Through corruption charges, party snubs and imprisonment, Yeddyurappa has emerged a relentless chaser of the chief minister’s chair. If audio recordings of phone conversations between him and the targets of “Operation Lotus” – BJP’s flagship effort to get MLAs of the ruling coalition to switch over – are to be believed, then the BJP leader has been a steadfast participant in the whole process. His seniority has allegedly neither kept him from making direct monetary offers to rebel MLAs, nor come in the way of his lobbying for a quick trust vote at the Vidhan Soudha.

Three rebel MLAs disqualified

Meanwhile, the pot continues to boil in the saga that has proven to be the Karnataka political scenario. Assembly speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar on Thursday disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law.

Kumar held that the resignations by the three MLAs were “not voluntary and genuine”. Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R. Shankar now remain disqualified till the end of the term of the current house, in 2023. “They have violated the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution [which marks the anti-defection law] and are therefore disqualified,” he told reporters.

Kumar cited that R. Shankar, who was earlier recognised as an independent in the assembly, had “merged” his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party with the Congress. He thus faced action on par with Congress MLAs, said the speaker.

MLAs storm the well of the Karnataka assembly late on Monday, July 22, a day before the trust vote. Photo: PTI

Not allowing the BJP leadership to bask in its newfound glory, the speaker also said he would decide on the resignations and disqualification pleas of the 14 other MLAs “in the next couple of days”. Whether this could stall the process of Yeddyurappa’s government formation remains to be seen.

The speaker seems to have foreseen the disqualified MLAs’ course of action. “No by-election…nothing will work…this [the speaker’s office] is a quasi judicial body,” Kumar said, adding, “I know these matters will go to the court.”

Also read: Why Is an MLA a Commercial Commodity in Karnataka?

The rebel MLAs of the coalition, whose resignations over the course of four days set off the series of events that led to the current political turmoil in Karnataka, remain in Mumbai, where they have been through the whole process. The Congress and the JD(S) had sought their disqualification under the anti-defection law. The rebel legislators, however, were undeterred by it and skipped the assembly proceedings during the crucial confidence vote on Tuesday.

Kumar’s pronouncement of the ruling on disqualification pleas by the Congress and JDS and resignations by the MLAs in a phased manner is seen as a tough message to other rebels, who are still camping in Mumbai insisting they would not step back from their decision to quit their assembly membership.

File image of some of the rebel MLAs from Karnataka at a hotel in Mumbai. Photo: PTI

Congress rebel MLAs faced tough action from the Speaker, who made it clear that a member disqualified under the anti-defection law cannot contest or get elected till the end of the term of the present House.

Siddaramaiah rubbishes claims

Reduced to a caretaker chief minister, Kumaraswamy was quoted by PTI has having said that ”no one can give a stable government in the state in the present political scene.”

Meanwhile, former chief minister Siddaramaiah rubbished reports claiming that it was he who had instigated the rebels to resign and destabilise the coalition government. Cautioning media houses against peddling “false news”, Siddaramaiah said he would give them a befitting reply if they repeat the allegation in front of him.

PTI mentioned sources as having said that Siddaramaiah has said that if the government is not formed by July 30 there will be political uncertainty, which may pave the way for mid-term polls. He has thus asked Congress leaders to focus on facing such an eventuality.

This is a developing story and will be updated as events unfold in Karnataka.

(With PTI inputs)