Earlier, in another embarrassment for BJP, its candidate for Speaker’s post withdrew nomination and Congress nominee was elected unanimously
Amid hyped fears of cross-voting and poaching of Congress-JD (S) coalition’s legislators by BJP, Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy won the floor test in Karnataka Vidhan Soudha, on Friday, May 25, as the saffron party gave him a walk-over once again by walking out ahead of voting.
Last week, BS Yeddyurappa, who had been sworn in as CM as the leader of the single largest party in a hung assembly, after failing to get any Congress or JD(S) MLAs to defect and get him a majority, had chosen to walk out in the face of certain defeat in a floor test, paving the way for HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing in as chief minister.
On Friday, Kumaraswamy won the trust vote with 115 legislators voting for him: 77 of the Congress (excluding Speaker Ramesh Kumar), 36 from the JD-S (the party had won 37 seats but the tally is 36 as Kumaraswamy had contested and won from two seats), 1 from the BSP and 1 from the KPJP.
The floor test showed that the Congress and JD (S) managed to shield their MLAs from the BJP’s desperate attempts to get them to either cross vote in its favour or abstain. Just three MLAs switching sides or five of them abstaining would have brought the Congress-JD(S) numbers down below the magic figure of 113, jeopardising the coalition government.
Moving the motion of confidence on the floor of the house, Kumaraswamy, who took oath as chief minister on May 23 with heads of almost all non-NDA parties present in what was dubbed as the grandest show of Opposition unity, said: “The assembly polls have resulted in unique political developments… The people have not given me a complete mandate. The Opposition feels the mandate is theirs, but I am yet to understand how they believe it to be so.”
Recounting how the Congress turned the tables on the BJP shortly after the May 15 assembly polls result by offering unconditional support to the JD (S) to form a government to keep the saffron party out of power, Kumaraswamy said: “Soon after results, I got a call from Dr. Parameshwara (Congress’ Karnataka unit chief, now deputy chief minister) who suggested that Congress and Janata Dal (S) should join hands and form a government. I was not desirous of the CM post but I have been given a second chance to be CM. Those who helped me become CM (the BJP) for the first time are now sitting in the Opposition side.”
Taking a swipe at Yeddyurappa, who had to resign as chief minister last week after staying in office for just about 55 hours, Kumaraswamy said: “Last week, Yeddyurappa, as CM, thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for choosing him to lead the BJP in the polls. But, I am unable to understand how he made a statement that he will not allow any other party apart from the BJP to form the government in Karnataka. He is the custodian of democracy. We are now 118 in strength, including Congress, Janata Dal (S), BSP and independents. We submitted the letter to the Governor (Vajubhai Vala) requesting him to allow us to form the government. However, he chose to invite the single largest party and gave them 15 days’ time to prove their majority. This has not happened in other States.”
HD Kumaraswamy added that his past decision to ally with the BJP to become the state’s chief minister had hurt his father, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. “I am guilty of taking political decisions that have pained my father. The circumstances were such that I did not have much choice… My family has not hankered for power. We have worked for maintaining a secular identity. Today, people should not feel that I joined hands with Congress because I wanted to become the Chief Minister. I took the decision for the future of my party. I want to right the wrongs that I have done when I was previously the Chief Minister,” he said.
Recalling his past mistakes during his first stint as chief minister, Kumaraswamy said: “There were rumours that pained me a great deal when I was the Chief Minister. When I did not hand over power the first time (after the BJP moved to end the alliance with JD-S), I earned a lot of ill will. I had an agreement with Yeddyurappa and not the BJP’s leadership. I have borne the brunt of being labelled as someone who hasn’t kept his word for the past 10 years.”
He added: “BJP is questioning why Congress with 78 MLAs joined hands with JD(S) with 37 MLAs. I took the decision to right the wrongs of the past and remove the black mark that is on my father. I am grateful for the second chance. I am pained that the citizens did not bless JD(S) with majority.”
Yeddyurappa, speaking after Kumaraswamy, was resentful. “The democratic mandate has been sidelined for opportunistic politics,” he said.
Still trying to sow dissensions in the ranks of the coalition that ousted him, he said to Congress veteran DK Shivakumar: “You will regret protecting the MLAs and reposing your trust in an untrustworthy person (Kumaraswamy). JD(S) lost their deposit in more than 120 seats, and has not won in 16 districts. And then all of you gang up to make a JD(S) leader the CM… I have no objection if you (DK Shivakumar and Congress) want to join Kumaraswamy in a sinking ship.” Shivakumar had played a key role in ensuring that Congress MLAs didn’t defect to the BJP ahead of the floor test that Yeddyurappa was supposed to face on May 19.
For former chief minister Siddaramaiah, against whom he had launched a bitter campaign, Yeddyurappa said, “I have decided to not speak against the Congress leaders. From now, our struggle will be against the corrupt father-son duo (of Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy)… I ask chief minister Kumaraswamy, why did you not hold hands or bow to Siddaramaiah (at the swearing-in ceremony). You held hands and bowed down to leaders who had come down from different parts of the country. The citizens of the state were all watching this.”
As soon as Yeddyurappa finished his speech, all 104 BJP legislators shouted “shame, shame, shame” and staged a walk out, leaving the floor completely open to the Congress-JD(S) combine to comprehensively win the trust vote.
The walk-out was coupled with a threat by Yeddyurappa – if the Kumaraswamy government doesn’t announce a loan waiver for the state’s farmers immediately, the BJP will carry out a state-wide bandh on May 28 in protest.
Earlier, the BJP, in another attempt at political brinkmanship and to tst waters ahead of the floor test, had got its five-term MLA S Suresh Kumar to file his nomination for the election of the Assembly Speaker, pitting him against Congress nominee KR Ramesh Kumar.
Later, perhaps realising that without the requisite number of legislators within its ranks to ensure its candidates victory and none from the Treasury falling for the allurements to cross vote, the BJP got Suresh Kumar to withdraw his nomination at the last minute.
To justify, the BJP talked principles. Yeddyurappa and Suresh Kumar both claimed that the nomination was withdrawn as the “BJP wanted the election of the Speaker to be unanimous in order to maintain the dignity of the Speaker’s post and in keeping with the legislature’s tradition.”