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Yeddyurappa ready for floor test with his man in speaker’s chair

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BENGALURU: BS Yeddyurappa will face a floor test on Saturday, barely 55 hours into office, after a Supreme Court order truncated the 15-day window the governor gave him to prove majority, a hurdle he can clear only by engineering defections, making MLAs of the JD(S)-Congress combine to resign or abstain from voting.

The 75-year-old Lingayat stalwart, who was sworn in as chief minister for a third time on Thursday morning, exuded confidence that he will win the trial of strength “100 per cent” despite the numbers heavily stacked against him.

“We will abide by the Supreme Court verdict … we have got 100 per cent support and cooperation to prove the majority,” Yeddyurappa told reporters here soon after the apex court’s order.

“Amidst all these political games, we will prove our majority tomorrow. We will obey the Supreme Court order,” said Yeddyurappa, who faces an uphill task rustling up the 111 MLAs required to pass muster.

Though the effective strength of the 224-member assembly is 222, with polling not taking place in two seats, JD(S)’s chief ministerial aspirant and the leader of the alliance HD Kumaraswamy won from two places and has only one vote.

The BJP has 104 MLAs and seven additional votes are required if the Yeddyurappa government is to survive, which can happen only by persuading the newly formed Congress-JD(S) alliance’s lawmakers to defect to its side, resign or abstain from voting.

Resignation of 16 lawmakers would bring down the number required for victory during the trust vote to 103, one less than what the BJP has.

Kumaraswamy had on wednesday claimed the BJP was trying to repeat “Operation Kamala” to come to power in the state.

‘Kamal’ (lotus) is the BJP’s election symbol and the term “Operation Kamala” was used in 2008 when the BJP under Yeddyurappa did not have a majority of its own in the assembly, and its leaders managed to persuade three Congress and four JD(S) MLAs to resign, allegedly by offering them money and office.

They later contested by-polls on BJP ticket and five of them won. It had done the trick for the BJP as their resignations brought down the number required to prove majority in the House.

In the other two secenarios, where MLAs of the combine cross-vote or abstain from voting, they would attract the provisions of the anti-defection law and can be disqualified.

Statistics are, however, clearly against the BJP, as its rival alliance has the support of 116 MLAs–Congress (78), JD(S) (37) and its pre-poll partner BSP one. It has also claimed the support of an independent MLA.

Meanwhile, already under attack for inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government after ignoring the larger bloc, the governor appointed KG Bopaiah the pro-tem speaker for administering oath to newly elected MLAs and conducting the floor test, raising the hackles of the Congress.

Bopaiah, who was the speaker between 2009 and 2013, is considered close to Yeddyurappa and had disqualified 11 disgruntled BJP and five independent MLAs ahead of a trust vote to help him stay in power in 2011.

His decision was upheld by the Karnataka High Court but overturned by the Supreme Court, which said Bopaiah had acted in haste in disqualifying the MLAs. He was severely criticised by the Supreme Court.

“Shocking decision by the Honble Governor … Constitutional Convention says the seniormost, in this case RV Deshpande shouldve been named. Also Supreme Court had passed structures (sic) against the conduct of KG Bopiah as Speaker. Sad to see Vajubhai Valaji behaving like an agent of BJP,” senior Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao said, reacting sharply to Bopaiah’s appointment.

Yeddyurappa has already appealed to the Congress and JD(S) MLAs to vote according to their conscience, an expression used by Indira Gandhi in 1969 when she indirectly called upon Congress lawmakers to ensure the defeat of Neelam Sanjiva Reddy in the presidential election. VV Giri, the unofficial nominee backed by Gandhi had then become the President of India.

There were unconfirmed reports of Lingayat MLAs of the JD(S)-Congress alliance being in touch with the BJP, and Vokkaliga MLAs in the saffron party cosying up to the combine owing to caste sentiments. Kumaraswamy, son of JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Devegowda, is a Vokkaliga.

With political waters in Karnataka getting murkier by the day, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed “missing” party MLA Anand Singh was called to the national capital by the BJP leadership and was not allowed to leave.

Azad denounced the governor’s action of inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government, saying “the saviour of the Constitution himself wanted to throttle it.”

He thanked the Supreme Court for its “uprightness” and for “saving democracy and protecting the Constitution of India”.

Kumaraswamy said he had “complete faith” in the MLAs of the alliance and would defeat the motion of vote of confidence with the “blessings and support” of Congress leaders.

Updated: May 18, 2018 — 12:20 pm

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