The BJP in Karnataka has set a model for wresting mandate of the people where none exists. The 2018 State election threw up a hung Assembly in Karnataka. Being the single largest party with 104 members in the 224-member State Assembly, the Governor invited BS Yediyurappa, leader of the BJP Legislature Party, to form the government. He could not win a trust vote within the stipulated time-frame and resigned. The Congress, second largest party, formed a coalition government with the support of the Janata Dal (Secular) and won a vote of confidence in the Assembly.
The BJP, with its money and muscle power, succeeded in persuading 17 MLAs from the ruling coalition to defect and resign from the Assembly to bring down the constitutionally constituted government. The Governor gave a second chance to Yediyurappa to form the government though he had the support of only 105 MLAs. While forming his second government, he inducted only 18 ministers through the sanctioned strength of the Karnataka Council of Ministers is 34.
The remaining berths were kept warm to accommodate the turncoats. The defectors, barring a lone Muslim MLA, were given BJP tickets in the succeeding by-elections and 12 of them got elected, taking its tally to 117. Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls this exercise “popular rejection of the Congress by the people.”
Yediyurappa has assured 11 of the 12 defectors elected to the Assembly. Articles 75(1B), 164(1B) among others of the Constitution bar those disqualified by the Speaker from being appointed as a minister or from holding any remunerative political post. The 17 turncoat MLAs have been disqualified by the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar till the end of the term of the present Assembly in July 2023, under the antidefection law.
The Supreme Court in its wisdom allowed the defectors to contest the by-elections while upholding the disqualification per se but not its period. By instantly inducting the chosen 11, the BJP would be sending a wrong message about the spirit of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
Perhaps that is why the BJP president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah is reluctant to give an appointment to Chief Minister Yediyurappa so far to clear the Karnataka list of ministers to complete his cabinet formation exercise. Loyal BJP MLAs, meanwhile, are unhappy that Yediyurappa has ignored their claim to ministerial posts and chose to reward defectors. How Amit Shah is going to handle the delicate situation remains to be seen.