Tortuous road ahead for BJP’s first government in south India (News Analysis)

May 26th, 2008 - 6:29 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, May 26 (IANS) A day after the drubbing they received from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Karnataka assembly poll, the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular Monday appeared set to give a torrid time to BJP’s first government in the south. As BJP, with 110 members in the 225-strong house, staked claim to forming the government with the support of three independents, Congress and JDS leaders met separately to finalise their strategies to make difficult for the BJP the task of government formation.

The Congress won 80 seats and the JDS 28. With independents winning six seats, BJP was deprived of a clear majority on its own.

The BJP claims to have succeeded in getting the support of three independents while another two have pledged to follow the advice of their mentor Siddaramaiah, a Congress leader from Mysore district.

BJP was persuading the sixth independent to support it, newly elected party legislators, who met to formally elect the party’s chief minister-designate B.S. Yeddyurappa as their leader Monday, told reporters.

State Congress leaders, who were in a state of shock Sunday when the results of the three-phase poll were announced, seemed to have recovered Monday and decided to complain to the governor that BJP was mounting pressure on independents to support it.

A group of young Congress leaders led by Siddaramaiah, who joined Congress two years back after rebelling against JDS president and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, met in Bangalore Monday to decide on the course they and the party should take in the coming days.

There was speculation that JDS leaders had told Congress that they will support the party if it decides to try its hand at government formation to prevent BJP from having its own government in the south.

However, senior Congress leaders, preferring anonymity, said the party had not shown interest as the numbers were not adding up and the central leadership would not support any such move.

They saw such offers as nothing more than attempts by JDS to keep its flock of 28 legislators together in the face of an open invitation by BJP that those unhappy in that party were welcome to join it.

The invitation was extended by state BJP chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda Sunday when it became clear that JDS had been thrashed in the poll, a fear that a majority in the party had expressed when Deve Gowda forced his party to break off alliance with the BJP in October-November last year.

The JDS, the biggest loser in the election as it won only 28 seats as against the 58 it had bagged in the 2004 polls, has called a meeting of its newly elected members in Bangalore Tuesday morning to discuss the party’s performance and what the future holds for it.

Aware of the pitfalls of running a government with just one seat majority, the BJP chief-minister designate Sunday appealed for cooperation from all parties. “I am not that much experienced and I will seek the advice of experienced people and elders,” Yeddyurappa told reporters after the results were declared Sunday.

However, Congress, whose hopes of keeping BJP away from power in the south have been dashed, was in no such mood as shown by its decision to complain to the governor on how BJP is enlisting the support of independents.

The first priority for the JDS, particularly to its young leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and son of Deve Gowda, is to prevent possible desertion of party legislators in the light of BJP’s invitation.

With just about a year to parliamentary polls, Kumaraswamy will prefer playing the role of an aggressive opposition to reclaim the lost ground rather than cooperation with the new government, his close confidants said.

The first hurdle BJP has to cross will be the vote of confidence in the assembly within the time governor Rameshwar Thakur will set as the party does not have a clear majority.

BJP’s dream of ruling the south is about to be realized but the Congress and JDS are determined to make the road ahead for the Lotus less than rosy.

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