Three weeks since BJP’s BS Yediyurappa was sworn in as Karnataka chief minister, there is no sign of his council of ministers.
What makes the delay inexplicable is the song and dance that the BJP made when the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government was in power. The BJP had alleged that the previous government, in its attempts to survive, was not focussing on administration.
Not just that, during the trust vote the BJP exhibited great impatience to have the process done with. So much so, when the debate on the confidence motion spilled over to the second day, the BJP legislators headed by Yediyurappa staged a sit-in within the Assembly premises through the night in protest.
Finally, the motion of confidence which started on a Thursday (July 18), concluded the next Tuesday (July 23) amid much resentment and protests from the BJP benches. So eager were they to see it through that hardly anyone spoke at length on the vote. On July 26, Yediyurappa was finally sworn in chief minister.
Since then, the state has been waiting for the new ministry. For a party that made such a big issue of governance when the previous government was in power, the new chief minister being unable to name his council of ministers shows the BJP in poor light.
Its chief minister, like earlier Congress dispensations, entirely depends on the “party high command” in Delhi before even moving a leaf in the state. At the same time, it has mastered the art of kicking up a fuss over several issues whenever it is in the opposition but fails to show it is any different when it gets the opportunity.
Since Yediyurappa was sworn in, Karnataka has witnessed some of the worst floods in the past century. Most districts are struggling to cope with the incessant rains and the deluge that have rendered thousands homeless, destroyed crops and livelihood and left scores dead.
At a time when the state could do with a council of ministers to pay maximum attention to the plight of people, there is just one man — the chief minister — who is running all over the state in a task that is well nigh impossible for a single individual even if accompanied by an official paraphernalia.
Former chief ministers Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy have criticised their successor Yediyurappa for his inability to have a council of ministers. To this, the chief minister was quoted as saying that the state chief secretary and other officials were working hard to ensure relief. And that the chief minister did not have the time to respond to criticism.
By the same logic, when the JD(S)-Congress was involved in fire-fighting within its camp earlier, the state administration was being managed by the bureaucracy. But the BJP and its retinue of legislators incessantly criticised the coalition, alleged the state administration was paralysed and used this as another excuse why the coalition had to be replaced.
Now that the BJP has come to power, it appears that the party is no longer bothered about the administration. The state could be suffering drought, flood or any other calamity but the central leadership of the party has no time to help its chief minister form the new ministry.
The reasons could be complicated as there is a fear within the party of dissension and revolt when the new ministry is named. Already, there are claimants for the post of deputy chief minister and plum postings within the ministry.
In addition, the 17 legislators who quit the coalition to help the BJP come to power are reportedly vying for berths in the ministry. Other than the two independents, the chances of 15 others are up in the air as the previous speaker K R Ramesh Kumar disqualified them under the anti-defection act.
The rebel legislators have approached the Supreme Court, seeking a stay. Their fortunes hinge on the apex court ruling. The BJP, meanwhile, is probably unable to make up its mind what to do with the rebels.
Bye-elections too have to be held to fill the vacancies of at least 15 legislators and there is no saying who will emerge winners. If the Congress-JDS coalition, contesting in an alliance or separately, wins more seats than the BJP it will have a chance to return to power. The BJP needs to win at least eight of the 15 to remain in power. Else it will have to go back to the opposition benches or instability will reign.
When The Federal contacted former BJP ministers Basavaraj Bommai and KS Eshwarappa, they conceded that they had no clue why there has been a delay. Given that the BJP central leadership is on a high following the recent Lok Sabha victory, the delay could indicate a new line of thinking in the selection of ministerial nominees. If that indeed happens, it could upset the BJP’s old guard in the state.
Be that as it may, ministry formation is an internal matter for the BJP. Until now, the party has shown it is not very different from its predecessors on this score. Also, unfortunately for the voter, it has become standard practice for political parties to take people for granted and at best offer lip service to governance, as the flood-hit regions are probably realising, rather painfully.
(With inputs from Prabhu Mallikarjunan)