For over a year, the BJP in Karnataka remained persistent to knock down the Congress-JD(S) alliance in the state. Thanks to the mass resignation by 15 MLAs, the BJP was able to defeat the coalition government in the trust vote on 23 July.
However, the BJP camp, instead of resounding with victory speeches, was silent. Their lack of eagerness to form the government was anticlimactic, especially taking into account the vigour their men displayed on the floor of the house. The BJP, which had appeared desperate to finish the floor test, didn’t stake claim to form the government for two days.
The delay was to ponder over what would be done with the rebel MLAs, who had played a pivotal role in toppling the coalition government. The high command, at last, gave the green signal to Yediyurappa’s chief ministerial aspirations, and he took oath as Karnataka’s 23rd CM on Friday, 26 July.
This delay foreshadows the troubles that the BJP will face in the days which follow, ironically because of the same rebel MLAs who helped them assume power. There are two aspects to the BJP’s rebel problem in Karnataka:
Getting the Rebels Re-elected in the Bypolls
After the resignation of 15 MLAs, the Karnataka Assembly’s strength has whittled to 209. A by-election will have to be conducted to fill the vacant seats. In order to hold power, the BJP will have to ensure that at least ten of the rebel MLAs win the elections on their party’s ticket. However, this won’t prove easy...
Let’s look at three of the rebel MLAs and their performance in the 2018 Assembly polls.
BC Patil, the MLA from Hirekerur, won by only 555 votes. Another rebel MLA, Prathap Gouda Patil, won the election by a margin of 213 votes and Shivaram Hebbar won by 1,500 votes.
If the BJP gives these MLAs tickets, they might irk the BJP candidates while also running the risk of the MLAs working against the party. Further, the Congress and the JD(S) is expected to try and defeat the rebel MLAs. At the same time, their rebellion is anticipated to work against their favour.
Accommodating Rebels in the State Cabinet
In case the rebel MLAs win the by-elections on BJP tickets, they will have to be accommodated in the state cabinet. According to sources, the BJP has promised ten of the rebel MLAs to be made cabinet ministers.
According to a report prepared by BJP leader Murgesh Nirani, there are 56 senior leaders in BJP, who have won three elections or more and expect a ministerial position in the cabinet.
But there are only 34 cabinet posts in Karnataka, which means if the ten rebel MLAs are given ministerial posts, only 24 of the 56 BJP leaders will get the chance to become ministers. In such a case, there is always the fear of disgruntled senior leaders jilting the party, a fate similar to what the Congress-JD(S) government was met with.
Fear of Disqualification
In a surprise press conference yesterday, Speaker Ramesh Kumar disqualified three of the rebel MLAs and said they could not contest elections till 2023. With 31 July as the deadline for Yediyurappa to prove his majority, there are fears that some MLAs might switch over.
Even if they don’t, they have the by-polls to win and cabinet positions to carefully fill...