As was expected, the Congress-JDS government finally collapsed on 23rd July 2019. The incompatibility of JDS-Congress post-poll alliance (I’d say ‘opportunistic alliance’ to prevent BJP from forming the government) was known from the very beginning and I think even members of Congress and JDS knew very well that this government won’t sustain for long.
Many a time, the differences between JDS and Congress came to the fore and there was always a BJP hand in triggering the rebellion among the cadres of the ruling dispensation. Initially, BJP high command didn’t want to disturb the H.D.Kumaraswami government until the general election, 2019. Even after the fall of Kumaraswami’s government, BJP high command didn’t hurry to inform the government immediately. However, on 26th July, suddenly things changed dramatically and B.S.Yeddiyurappa was allowed to stake the claim to form the government. On the same day, he was sworn in as the CM of Karnataka with a program to conduct a trust vote on 29th July 2019.
I don’t know whether BJP high command gave a proper thought for the formation of BSY government or not. However, I think the high command might be appraised that in case there’s a delay in the formation of the government, the equations may change. The rebel MLAs may again join Congress etc. In any case, even if BSY wins the trust vote, the sword of Damocles’ will always be on his head because of the long history of defections in Karnataka politics.
D. Shiv Kumar of Congress is capable of breaking even BJP MLAs. Thus, I think BJP high command should have dissolved the assembly and gone for fresh elections. Forming a BJP government could be a great blunder by BJP high command which may benefit the Congress very well. Why do I say so? Read on.
Firstly, BSY’s age is 76 at present and allowing him to be CM is nothing but breaking the unwritten code of retiring at the age of 75 in BJP party. Questions will be raised from inside the party as to why leaders like Sumitra Mahajan, Hukum Singh Dev and plenty of good leaders were denied tickets, posts, etc. People who trust Narendra Modi will also ask why there’s an exception in Karnataka, is it for power? If yes, then won’t it affect the image of Narendra Modi?
Now, an important point in Karnataka polity is that BSY was never a leader of Pan-Karnataka. He’s a leader of Lingayat’s. If we see the demography of Karnataka, then we will find that Dalits form 19.5%, tribals 5%, Muslims 16%, OBC’s 48%, Brahmins’ 3% and the rest are approximately 6%.
Out of the OBC population, 7% are Kuruba’s (Siddharamaih’s vote bank), Lingayat’s 14% (BSY’s vote bank) and Vokkaliga’s 11% (Devegowda’s vote bank). In 2013, BSY rebelled and formed a new party, Karnataka Janata Paksha and got just a 9.8% vote share. That means he couldn’t even get a total of 14% of Lingayat votes.
In 2018 assembly elections, the BJP couldn’t get a majority on its own because BSY wasn’t accepted as a leader in the entire state. In fact, most of the opinion polls projected that Congress might retain power in Karnataka. It was a last-minute aggressive political campaign by Narendra Modi that changed the wind in favour of BJP, yet BJP remained short of 8 seats from the majority. That proves that BSY is not the leader, Karnataka wants.
But then, in my opinion, BSY has a ‘nuisance value’. His rebellion could cost BJP dearly, like the 2013 assembly election. That’s why dissolving the assembly would have been a better way for BJP as it could have got a majority in the elections and then a new leader could have been given Chief Ministership while appeasing BSY as a governor of a state citing the unwritten rule of the 75-years, age retirement barrier. Even if BSY rebels, I don’t think he could inflict much damage in the present situation where Narendra Modi is as much popular in Karnataka as in Gujrat or other Hindi belts. People are usually in agreement for the retirement of a politician at a certain age.
Also, the present speaker (until he is removed through a no-confidence motion) can disqualify all the rebels making them unfit to be ministers for the tenure of this assembly. This could raise fear among rebel MLAs and some may return to the party fold because of some bargains and vote against BSY government. If BSY loses the trust vote or becomes a minority even after the trust vote, then it would be very embarrassing for BJP. Even SC could uphold the disqualification! What will BJP do then?
Even if the rebel MLAs resignation is accepted, how will BSY accommodate them inside the cabinet which has a maximum strength of 34? Won’t there be a rebellion? If yes, how could BJP government manage? As the margin is very thin, everyone will want their pound of flesh. Won’t Congress take advantage of such dissent generated for not being given a minister post to an aspirant MLA?
In any case, JDS-Congress is facing severe anti-incumbency at present. Why lead an unstable government to earn anti-incumbency? Even if BSY’s government won the trust vote on 29th July, I don’t think the government will last for long given the fractured mandate and defection-prone polity of Karnataka. Why should BJP compromise, just to fulfil the greed of aged BSY?
In conclusion, I would say that BJP has been behaving strangely for the last couple of months. From passing RTI amendment bill to triggered defection in other parties and now making a rare exception to allow 75-year-old BSY to be CM through defection and appeasement. This BJP appears to be no more different than others and I won’t be surprised if BJP’s fall begins from now unless things are not set right by Narendra Modi himself.