Finally, at least the first round of political turmoil in Karnataka is over as B S Yeddyurappa, the 76-year-old BJP stalwart has succeeded in toppling the H D Kumaraswamy's Congress-Janata Dal (S) government on the floor of the House and could convince the State Governor about the stability of his government. On Monday, Yeddyurappa would face the trust vote but going by the present numbers, he is sure to win the test. It means he would be sitting pretty in his saddle at least till the ensuing by-elections are through and the verdict is declared.
Yeddyurappa, a three-time chief minister who has never completed a term and whose last stint in 2018 ended in two days, is leaving nothing to chance as he starts his fourth term. "Yeddy", as he is popularly called, was sworn in alone on Friday. Now after winning the trust vote, he would get a breathing time to chose his team.
Not that the BJP party high command especially Amit Shah, BJP president, was eager to give yet another chance to Yeddy. Shah had many reservations about the Lingayat leader and was actively weighing other options. He would have preferred to tread cautiously on Karnataka but gave in after an emotional Yeddyurappa called him at midnight and said it was his "last chance to be Karnataka CM". Shah also had "Madam Shobha" or Shobha Karandlaje, MP from Udupi-Chikmagalur and close Yeddyurappa confidante, hounding him relentlessly to set a date to stake claim to form government in Karnataka.
The fact that last time the over-confidence of Yeddy boomeranged and he had to step down within 48 hours, Shah did not want to repeat history and was looking for another option. But when he failed to find an alternative to Yeddy, an exasperated Shah told his near ones in the parliament that he also had "some other work and could not focus on Karnataka alone". Meanwhile, Yeddyurappa has multiple relay pujas on at his home in Bengaluru and a 24-hour "havan" for his village deity in Yediyur village in Tumakuru district. Apart from persuading Shah, Yeddyurappa has been closeted with astrologers, numerologists and even tarot card readers to ensure that he can complete a full term as Karnataka Chief Minister.
The BJP has an unofficial retirement age of 75, and under Shah, has imposed it relentlessly. Yeddyurappa was the exception even when he took over as chief minister in May last year, after the Karnataka polls. "From the day the coalition government was sworn in, Yeddyurappa has been relentless, launching Operation Lotus at least half-a-dozen times over the past year," say sources. (Operation Lotus is what critics call the BJP's strategy to topple governments by pulling away lawmakers). Though these methods are yet to yield any fruit in other border-line states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it was Yeddyurappa who through his relentless efforts ensured that the 'Operation' was successful.
Curiously this time, he managed to succeed with a little help from Congress leader Siddaramaiah. If the party had not agreed to let him form the government in Karnataka, Yeddyurappa would have destroyed BJP in Karnataka. This was the feeling among many senior BJP men in Karnataka, who watched Operation Lotus unfold holding their breath in fear coupled with curiosity. The sources say Shah agreed after initial reluctance - despite the numbers not appearing to add up - because BJP now needs to display that it is a pan-India party with a government in south India. Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi envision the BJP as the dominant pole of politics and the optics of a government in the south helps.
As the systematic 'Operation Lotus' unfolded in Bengaluru, it clearly underlined this as the Version 2.0 of the BJP under Amit Shah. In 2008, Yeddyurappa was forced by the party to resign over the Rs. 1,000-crore illegal mining scam. His relationship with central BJP was turbulent then.
Curiously today, Yeddyurappa, Shah and Modi are all on the same page. The party commands huge resources when it comes to sequestering legislators and using private aircraft to ferry them. There are loud whispers of legislators switching loyalties for unimaginable sums as the BJP systematically destroyed the majority commanded by the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
Even as several Congress leaders say BJP wrecked the coalition using money and implicit threats of investigation by central agencies such as Income Tax and CBI, hushed whispers are doing the rounds that former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who has a huge rivalry with HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy, made available dossiers to Yeddyurappa on the legislators to be targeted. Two days after the Congress-JDS coalition lost the trust vote, Yeddyurappa told Governor Vajubhai Vala that he wanted to be sworn in exactly at 6 pm on Friday as it was the most "auspicious" time for him.
Dream Fulfilled: Yeddyurappa's astrologers have told him that his "inauspicious period" ends at 4 pm today. Clearly, his time has come as he fulfils his dream of being the Chief Minister. The voters of Karnataka, who have witnessed the ugliest form of horse-trading, must now be praying for governance.
Now that Yeddyurappa has completed his long time ambition to sit on the seat of power, the question is will he be comfortable? And if so for how long? Even if he wins the statutory trust vote (of which he is sure now) will he be sitting pretty in the saddle and for how much time? He will always have be on guard to save his seat as the wafer-thin majority that his party is enjoying can be bridged by paying small price to the BJP MLAs. The writer is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).
- Bharatkumar Raut