The BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in yesterday as Chief Minister of a minority government in Karnataka, has to take a trust vote at 4 pm tomorrow, the Supreme Court said today, drastically slashing to 24 hours the time he has to win over more lawmakers.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala had controversially given Mr Yeddyurappa 15 days for a test of strength. Mr Yeddyurappa’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi, the former top lawyer for the central government, asked for a week but the court rejected it.
“Better that the floor test is on Saturday (tomorrow) so that nobody gets any time,” said one of the three judges hearing the case. Mr Yeddyurappa’s request for a secret ballot was also denied.
The BJP is eight members short of the 112-majority mark in Karnataka.
On Wednesday night, a day after Karnataka produced a hung verdict, the Governor decided to invite the BJP instead of the Congress-Janata Dal Secular combine, which claimed 117 lawmakers. The Congress challenged his decision in the Supreme Court the same night. After an all-night hearing, the court didn’t stop Mr Yeddyurappa’s oath ceremony, but said it would continue hearing the case and raised concerns about an “open invitation to horse-trading”.
When the court asked Mr Rohatgi how the BJP would get numbers, he said: “Support will come from Congress and JDS MLAs, more cannot be said at this point.”
In Bengaluru, Mr Yeddyurappa said in response to the ruling: “We will get a good majority. We will prove the majority.”
His party, the BJP tweeted: “Bring it on!”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the court order vindicated his party’s stand. “The BJP’s bluff that it will form the Govt., even without the numbers, has been called out by the court. Stopped legally, they will now try money and muscle, to steal the mandate,” he tweeted.
After today’s interim order, the court will later decide on the bigger question – whether in case of a split verdict, it is the single largest party without a majority or an alliance with a majority that gets first shot at power.
A pro-tem or temporary speaker appointed by the governor, in this case BJP legislator KG Bopaiah, will supervise the floor test, and also vote if there’s a tie. Mr Yeddyurappa has been ordered not to take any executive decisions until the floor test. The nomination of an Anglo-Indian legislator by the governor has also been scrapped.
Fearing bribes and threats to engineer defections, the Congress-JDS combine shifted lawmakers around all of yesterday and past midnight, moved them out of Bengaluru in three buses. Their plan to fly them out in chartered flights failed as Congress leaders claimed they were not granted permission.
The three buses drove into Hyderabad this morning and the lawmakers checked into a five-star hotel. They now have to double back for the floor test.
The Congress and JDS allege that the lawmakers were threatened and also offered Rs. 100 crore bribes and ministries. One of the lawmakers, Anand Singh, was “kidnapped”, the Congress claimed. Another Congress legislator also went MIA after putting down his signature on a list of party legislators.