BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa resigned as Karnataka’s chief minister on Saturday, minutes before a Supreme Court-ordered trust vote and two days after he was sworn in.
“I’m resigning as chief minister. I’m grateful to the speaker for giving me this opportunity,” Yeddyurappa said in the Karnataka assembly after it became clear that the BJP won’t get the support of enough MLAs to support his government.
“People blessed us with 104 seats. The mandate wasn’t for the Congress or the JD(S). The governor invited us to form the government because we are the largest party…Till the last breath of my life, I will work for the people of Karnataka,” he said.
The trust vote was ordered by the Supreme Court on a petition by the Congress and JD(S) challenging governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government and prove his majority in 15 days after election results were announced on Tuesday.
The Congress won 78 seats and the JD(S) 37. One seat went to JD(S) ally BSP, and the others to a local party and an independent. Voting was held on May 12 in 222 out of the state’s 224 seats.
The Congress said that none of its members deserted the party in the face of what a senior leader called pressure by the BJP and central agencies. “We would like to congratulate the MLAs…who resisted all sorts of temptations and arm-twisting by the central government. They stood by the party principles and decisions taken by the party leadership,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has been camping in Bengaluru to oversee the political overtures.
The Karnataka assembly convened in Bengaluru at 11 am on Saturday after the Congress and the JD(S) withdrew their demand for the removal of BJP leader KG Bopaiah as protem speaker. Half an hour earlier, the Supreme Court had begun hearing a petition against Bopaiah’s appointment. The court said that to decide on Bopaiah’s appointment, he would have to be heard first and that would mean delaying the trust vote, scheduled to be held by 4pm.
Kapil Sibal and other lawyers representing the Congress and JD (S) then dropped their demand for a new pro-tem speaker.
The court, however, ordered the proceedings in the assembly to be telecast live on local TV channels.
The suspense continued as newly appointed MLAs took the oath of office. Two Congress MLAs, Anand Singh and Pratap Gouda Patil, failed to mark their presence amid reports that they were in a Bengaluru hotel with BJP legislator G Somashekhar Reddy. The MLAs eventually returned to the assembly and were the last to take oath.
The Congress released audio clips that purportedly showed Yeddyurappa and other BJP leaders trying to influence Congress MLAs. The BJP rejected the allegations. Hindustan Times has not verified the authenticity of the clips.
Congress and JD(S) MLAs had been bussed to Hyderabad on Friday amid allegations that the BJP was trying to make them switch sides or abstain from voting. They returned to Bengaluru on Saturday morning.
Political rivals of the BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre, welcomed the developments in Karnataka.
“Poor Mr Yeddyurappa. When the puppeteers fail, the puppet falls and breaks,” Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram tweeted.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee posted on the social networking site: “Democracy wins. Congratulations Karnataka. Congratulations Deve Gowda Ji, Kumaraswamy Ji, Congress and others. Victory of the ‘regional’ front.”
Yeddyurappa, 75, became Karnataka’s chief minister for the first time in October 2007 in a BJP-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government. He lasted in the post for over a month, when the JD-S withdrew support and his government fell in November 2007.
He became chief minister for the second time after the BJP came to power for the first time in south India on its own in the May 2008 mid-term assembly election, riding on a sympathy wave over JD (S) “betrayal”.
He had to resign three years later in July 2011 after the Lokayukta, Karnataka’s anti-corruption watchdog, indicted him for alleged corruption in a multi-crore mining scam.