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The Resignation of Karnataka's Chief Minister


Nearly a year after the 2018 Karnataka election in which JD(S), INC and BSP came to power after forming an alliance with JD(S) and instating CM HD Kumaraswamy at the head of the cabinet, the ruling coalition faced a major political crisis which ultimately led to its downfall. In the beginning, JD(S) had 37 seats, INC had 78 seats and BSP had 1 seat, with a total of 116 seats, out of the halfway mark of 113. The largest opposition party BJP had 105 seats. There were two independents who supported the government.

The political crisis in Karnataka unfolded soon after the Karnataka coalition government led by JD(S) CM HD Kumaraswamy started a Grama Vastavya (village stay programme) to strengthen mass contact with local population after the poor performance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.. There were several disagreements amongst the various allies of the coalition on several issues such as infrastructure, drinking water supply. INC accused JD(S) of using Grama Vastavya as a political tool to strengthen the support base of the party. There were also charges of a ponzi scheme against two INC ministers for which an SIT was called to probe.

Following the internal tussle in the coalition, two INC legislators, BS Anand Singh and Ramesh Jaikiholi gave their resignation to the speaker. The Congress was divided into several factions, some of whom wanted to stay in coalition, some of whom wanted a cabinet reshuffle and others wanted to leave the party and join BJP.

On 6 July, 9 INC legislators and 3 JD(S) legislators resigned. These legislators flew to Mumbai to stay in a hotel. Notably, Santosh, Karnataka BJP President BS Yediyurappa’s personal assistant was spotted with the rebel legislators.

The next day, Kumaraswamy who was away on a personal US trip cut his trip short and returned home and held meetings with his JD(S) and Congress legislators. Following this, the next day, all JD(S) and INC ministers resigned ‘voluntarily’ to enable the CM to reshuffle the cabinet. This was an attempt to appease the disgruntled MLAs by giving them a place in the new cabinet. Independent MLAs H Nagesh and R Shankar, the newly made ministers too resigned from ministry. Nagesh announced that he will be joining the BJP. Meanwhile, BJP, the largest opposition party too held its first legislative party meeting since the crisis started.

On July 9, Congress held its legislative party meeting where only 59 out of its 79 members were present. Congress requested the speaker to disqualify 9 rebel INC MLAs. Roshan Baig, the suspended congress MLA too tendered resignation. The speaker announced that only 5 out of 13 resignations were in order and he asked the rebel MLAs to appear before him in batches. JD(S) also sought disqualification of 3 rebel MLAs.

On 11th July, a petition filed by 10 rebel MLAs was heard. However, the court instructed the Speaker to take on the resignations “forthwith” and the rebel MLAs were asked to appear before the Speaker by 6 pm. The court was adjourned to 12 July. The rebel MLAs flew back to Bengalauru, tendered their resignations and left for Mumbai again. The Speaker, however, decided that resignations could not be accepted immediately without considering their validity and checking if they were voluntary or coerced.

On July 12, the court hearing was again adjourned for 16 July and the court stayed any action against the rebel MLAs by the Speaker. Kumaraswamy too announced that he will appear for a trust vote.

The next day amidst attempts by Congress to win back rebel MLAs, BJP leaders met Ramalinga Redd. Five more rebel MLAs too moved the Supreme Court alleging that they were being threatened to support the Kumaraswamy government in floor test. On 15 July, the house was adjourned to 18 July since SC had ordered a stay on any decision of the Speaker. On the day of the floor test, CLP leader Siddaramaiyah asked that the vote be deferred, on the grounds of infringement of right to issue whip, and hoped for a clarity before the vote could begin. Ultimately, the house was adjourned to July 22 for the trust vote. On 22 June, two independent MLAs approached the Supreme Court due to a delay in trust vote. SC posted the trust vote for the following day.

On 23 July, CM Kumaraswamy lost the Trust vote by 6 votes. The JD(S) INC coalition was already reduced to 101 seats and BJP retained 105 seats. Kumaraswamy resigned and BS Yediurappa, the BJP leader and former Chief Minister of Karnataka, swore in as the Chief MInister again.

JD(S) and INC legislators accused BJP of trying to poach their MLAs and engaging in horsetrading. The BJP, on the other hand, denied any role in the events insinuating that the government is destined to fall, without their interference. They also accused the government of not living up to people’s expectations.

Regardless of what actually happened behind the scenes in the Karnataka Crisis, the end result was the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) Alliance and the BJP taking power in Karnataka. The man who was central to the BJP’s rise in power was none other than Yediyurappa himself. So let’s learn a little bit about him. Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa, or BSY as he was called, was born into the Lingayat Community, a sub-sect of Hinduism, who make up around 17% of Karnataka’s population. [1]

Lingayatism emerged in the 12th century, led by thinkers like Basava. The movement was characterised by a move away from traditional Vedic Hinduism, with a rejection of the Caste System and the practice of idolatry. Perhaps it is ironic that a man from a community such as this came to be at the forefront of the BJP’s rise to power in South India.

Yediyurappa had been associated with the Rasthriya Swayamsevak Sangh since his college days, and had also joined the political wing of the organisation, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later rebranded to the Bharatiya Janata Party. By the 1980s, he was a prominent politician in the party, being made the Party’s chief in Shivamogga District, and being made chief of the State Unit in 1988. He was even made the leader of the Opposition by the BJP in 1994 and once more in 2004. [2] [3]

It was under Yediyurappa that the BJP first saw itself in power. The first stint was in the coalition government with JD(S) in 2006, formed in opposition to the Dharam Singh led Congress Government. The agreement was that the JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy would be the Chief minister for the first 20 months and then Yediyurappa would be made CM. However when the time came, Kumaraswamy refused to relinquish power, which led to the BJP withdrawing support. Yediyurappa was Deputy Chief Minister during this time. After about a month of President’s Rule in the State, the BJP and JD(S) came to an alliance with Yediyurappa as Chief Minister, the first BJP CM in the South, but the alliance collapsed within a week due to disagreements between the parties on power sharing. [4] [5] [6]

However, in the subsequent snap elections in 2008, Yediyurappa’s leadership saw through the first ever Indian State under a BJP government. He led the party to a victory, winning 110 seats, 3 short of a majority. However the party got support from 6 independent MLAs. Yediyurappads was made the Chief Minister. However he was forced to resign by the BJP central leadership in 2011 after he was indicted by the Karnataka Lokayukta for profiteering from illegal land deals in Bangalore and Shimoga district. Following this, Yediyurappa left the BJP and formed his own party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha in 2012. However, he rejoined the BJP in 2014, and was reinstated as Karnataka State Unit Chief in 2016. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11].

Following this, the 2018 Karnataka election took place, where the party was 8 seats short of the majority. It was following this that the 2019 resignation crisis took place. It was following the resignation crisis,and the by-polls after them, that the BJP, for the first time in its history in the state, had a full majority in the Assembly, and Yediyurappa was called on once again to take oath as CM. [12] [13]

However, all was not well in the BJP camp. As was increasingly revealed in 2021, Karnataka, like many other BJP-led states suffered from internal politics. 3 CM changes in Uttrakhand, Sarbanada Sonowal removed as CM and replaced by Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam, and Yogi Adityanath fighting with the UP BJP State Unit Chief, Karnataka had problems too.[14] [15] [16]

Yediyurappa, while popular among the people, had been increasingly unpopular with the state legislators. This could mainly be credited to the fact that Yediyurappa was considerably more moderate than the prevailing line within the Party. Since 2014 the BJP has increased its nationalistic rhetoric, and most legislators increased their support of this kind of rhetoric. Yediyurappa’s denial of following through forced him out of power.

Speculation and the road ahead

While age and corruption allegations have also been sighted as plausible reasons, it doesn’t stand to reason that Yediyurappa be removed because of them. BSY’s replacement, Basavaraj Bommai, fits into this role too. He follows the line that the Central Government provides on issues, and he, like BSY, is also a member of the Lingayat community, thereby, the BJP’s eyes, retaining them as their support base. However, this may seem unlikely, since many prominent Lingayat seers wanted Yediyurappa to stay, and this is besides the fact that the Congress and JD(S) swept the Urban Local Body polls that were held in the State in 2021. Until the 1990s, the Lingayats were largely voting the Congress party to power in the state. At the time, the Congress had been in government in Karnataka with its largest majority ever, 179 out of the 224 seats in the Assembly, because of the Lingayat votes mobilised by Veerendra Patil. The Congress also had a huge support from another dominant community, Vokkaliga. Yet they only managed to form the government twice during this period. Ever since then, the lingayat community has only swayed further away from the Congress, helping BJP pave its way in the process. Getting the lingayat vote is key to winning in Karnataka. BJP learnt it the hard way in 2013 when they won only 40 seats compared to the 110 it had won in 2008, and its vote share dipped from 33.86 per cent to 19.95, with the KJP taking 9.8 per cent. This happened upon forcefully removing yediyurappa from power. After his return to the party, he consolidated the Lingayat vote base of the party again in the 2014 general elections.

But does the lingayat vote really matter?

Despite the fact that the Lingayat vote was consolidated by the BJP, it doesn't speak much about their support throughout Karnataka because Congress has won the most vote share in every election since 1999.The BJP might be in power, but there is one demand of the lingayats they cannot fulfil. The community wishes to be seen as a separate religion, and not a branch of Hinduism. The only chance of BJP getting through this demand was through yediyurappa, who tried to provide neutral ground. It was siddaramayah, the Karnataka congress chief, who advocated for lingayats to be given a separate religion status. The congress however fails to rise to power anytime soon. As for the BJP, with yediyurappa gone, there isn’t much for the party to thrive on.

~ Risika, Shivansh & Madhav


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