A Besieged Bastion
YeddyurappaHaradanahalli Devegowda Kumaraswamy, the state JD(S) boss and former Karnataka chief minister in a JD(S)-BJP coalition government, has for months planned the drama in the state which has left the 28-month-old B.S. Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in a crisis. The first signs of dissidence cropped up last week when Yeddyurappa brought in his,YeddyurappaHaradanahalli Devegowda Kumaraswamy, the state JD(S) boss and former Karnataka chief minister in a JD(S)-BJP coalition government, has for months planned the drama in the state which has left the 28-month-old B.S. Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in a crisis. The first signs of dissidence cropped up last week when Yeddyurappa brought in his lieutenants in a September 22 Cabinet reshuffle at the cost of some independent MLAs whose support helped prop up the first-ever BJP government south of the Vindhyas in May 2008. One of them, Sports Minister Goolihatti Shekhar, had even threatened to kill himself if he was removed. Bellary mining baron and Tourism Minister G. Janardhana Reddy, whose brother Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy was instrumental in mobilising the independents to smell a new future in the saffron party, had also wanted Shekhar to stay. Yeddyurappa, claiming the party high command and the RSS leadership had given him a carte blanche, threw caution to the winds and decided for himself.Kumaraswamy has taken on Chief Minister Yeddyurappa.Shekhar, like many others who felt wronged by the chief minister, cried foul. He and 18 other slighted MLAs wrote to Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj, withdrawing their support to the Yeddyurappa government. The list comprised 14 BJP MLAs and five independents including seven ministers. Bhardwaj played by the book and asked Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on or before October 12 by 5 p.m. Kumaraswamy, meanwhile, had already built his bridges with the Congress high command, having met Sonia Gandhi some months ago. That he had been trooping in and out of the Raj Bhavan this week only added to his key role in the drama. With the state Congress in a comatose since 2006, the high command had no choice but to go with a Congress-JD(S) combo to take on the BJP. Sonia even roped in former JD(S) man and ex-deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah into the Congress in July 2006 and made him head of the Congress Legislature Party and Opposition leader in June 2009. Even as Yeddyurappa deputed Janardhana, who had nearly pulled down the government in October 2009, to placate more than a dozen rebel MLAs holed up in a Chennai hotel on October 6, Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy’s secret rendezvous threw enough hints of serious trouble for Yeddyurappa.The 224-member Assembly comprises 117 BJP MLAs, 73 and 28 from the Congress and the JD(S) respectively, and six independents. Yeddyurappa, hoping the Reddys will do the trick for him, desperately needs the rebels to “come back home” to clock the magic number of 113. The rebels have spurned his olive branch to have some senior colleagues resign to accommodate five or six of them now and six more in six months. The fact that Kumaraswamy’s key man Zameer Ahmed, a Bangalore JD(S) MLA who owns a fleet of buses, was liasioning with the rebel MLAs in Chennai is not good news for the BJP.advertisementDissident BJP MLAs address the media outside Raj Bhavan.The Reddys are under pressure from the BJP high command to bail out Yeddyurappa while the Congress-JD(S) alliance wants the government to fall on its own before exploiting it. Karunakara symbolically stood behind Yeddyurappa at the October 6 Cabinet meeting in the Vidhana Soudha while their close aide and Health Minister B. Sriramulu even offered to resign if it helped the beleagured Yeddyurappa. State Congress Working President D.K. Shivakumar, working closely with Siddaramaiah, says his party “will play its cards close to its chest”. JD(S) leader M.C. Nanaiah had also touched base with a key Congress leader in Bangalore. If the Congress-JD(S) combo manages to lure the rebels, Kumaraswamy will play kingmaker: Siddaramaiah can realise his dream of becoming chief minister and Kumaraswamy’s brother H.D. Revanna, his deputy. Time is running out and the heat is on Yeddyurappa to survive this ordeal. Or just get ready to hang up his boots in a few days.