Haveri, Karnataka: Opening a new chapter in Karnataka politics, former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on Sunday formally launched Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) and took over as its President at a massive rally here in North Karnataka.
In a potential sign of trouble for the BJP Government in the state, at least 10 ruling party MLAs attended the rally ignoring the party warnings to legislators and other leaders to keep away from it.
Prior to the launch, Yeddyurappa also hosted a breakfast meeting which was attended by at least 21 BJP MLAs, seven MLCs and four Lok Sabha MPs.
Ahead of the launch of KJP, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had yesterday cracked the whip sacking Cooperative Minister B J Puttaswamy, a loyalist of Yeddyurappa, from the cabinet with BJP also suspending another staunch supporter and Tumkur MP G S Basavaraj from the party. Both were issued show cause notices.
Talking to reporters before the rally, Yeddyurappa dared the BJP leadership to dissolve the assembly and go before the people.
Yeddyurappa said BJP should understand that the Shettar Government survived on the support of his loyalists.
“If they (BJP) want the continuance of this Government, which is nothing but a KJP-BJP coalition, they should desist from taking any disciplinary action against my supporters,” he said.
The action against Yeddyurappa’s supporters yesterday came a day after 23 legislators and seven ministers attended the breakfast meet hosted by him in Belgaum, in an expression of solidarity with the Lingayat strongman who quit the BJP on November 30, snapping his 40-year-association with the party.
Minister for Public Works C M Udasi, Minister for Power Shobha Karandlaje and Minister for Water Resources Basavaraj Bommai, loyalists of Yeddyurappa, were seen seated among party workers.
In the event of BJP taking disciplinary action against MLAs, the five-month-old Shettar Ministry will face serious threat to its survival with assembly polls due in May next.
In the 224-member assembly, BJP has a strength of 118 and it requires 113 for a simple majority.
Congress has 71 members and JDS 26. There are seven independents and two vacancies.
Thirteen BJP MLAs openly back Yeddyurappa
The BJP government faced the threat of instability after 13 MLAs, defying the party, threw their lot behind former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who formally launched his Karnataka Janata Party at a mega rally here on Sunday.
Thirteen loyalist MLAs of Yeddyurappa, who quit the BJP ten days ago, shared the dais with him in an open defiance, putting the ruling BJP in a quandary as it had warned of action if the legislators participated in Sunday's rally or associated with its former state strongman.
Addressing the rally, a show of strength, a combative Yeddyurappa slammed chief minister Jagadish Shettar and threw down the gauntlet at him to seek a fresh mandate.
"Shettar said action will be taken against legislators if they participated in today's rally. The government has no majority now. You are in chief minister's chair because of the support of Yeddyurappa. If you have the guts, dissolve the Assembly and seek fresh mandate".
The participation of these MLAs, including H Halappa, Nehru Olekar, BP Harish, CC Patil and Sunil Valyapure, who tendered his resigation on Saturday as infrastructure development minister, is seen as a big blow to the state government.
Seeking to put up a brave face, Shettar ruled out his resignation and asserted that he still commanded majority.
He, however, said action will be taken against those who defied the party directive and participated in Yeddyurappa's rally. "There is no question of tolerating indiscipline".
In another sign of potential trouble for the five-month-old Shettar government, at a breakfast hosted by MLC Shivaraj Sajjan here, at least 21 MLAs, seven MLCs and four Lok Sabha members met Yeddyurappa.
Seven ministers, including Basavaraja Bommai, CM Udasi, Murugesh Nirani and Shobha Karandlaje, were among those present at this meeting. But they, except Valyapure, skipped the rally, apparently to avoid the wrath of the party.
Sending a warning to Yeddyurappa's loyalists, Shettar had sacked his trusted lieutenant BJ Puttaswamy from the ministry on Saturday while the party had suspended Tumkur MP GS Basavaraju.
However, the number at the breakfast meeting has disappointed Yeddyurappa, who expected more than 40 MLAs to turn up, according to sources in the Karnataka Janata Party, reins of which he took over on Sunday at the rally becoming its president.
In the 224-member assembly, BJP has a strength of 118, Congress 71, JDS 26, Independents seven and two vacancies.
Yeddyurappa slammed the BJP for the action against Puttaswamy and Basavaraju, flaying it as "selective", as the crisis in BJP appears headed for a flash-point.
He said it's "very well-known" about ministers, MLAs and MPs who are supporting him. "I am wondering why the BJP leadership is delaying and hesitating to take action against them. Instead of dilly-dallying and taking selective action, I dare the BJP leadership to dissolve the Assembly and go before the people," he said.
"It's known truth that the government is continuing in office with the support of my followers ..." he told reporters, adding, he would like to remind the BJP leadership that it was because of his leadership that the party could form its first-ever government in the south.
"People of Karnataka will not tolerate the treatment meted out to me by the BJP leadership and selective action taken against my supporters," Yeddyurappa said.
Sunday's developments triggered calls for resignation of the BJP government by the opposition Congress on the ground that it has been reduced to a minority.
KPCC president G Parameshwara and opposition Congress leader in the state assembly Siddarmaiah said the BJP government would soon collapse.
Yeddyurappa strongly justified the formation of a regional party, saying he saw a bright future for it and noting such parties' role in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
He said he would begin a state-wide tour, starting from Bidar in the next four-five days, to build the new party.
Three MLCs — Mumtaz Ali Khan, Sajjan and MD Lakshminarayana (who is KJP General Secretary) — also attended the rally.
Yeddyurappa's new political chapter after a 40-year-long association with the BJP climaxes a 16-month power struggle within the party and running feud with the central leadership after he was asked to quit as chief minister in July last year over the Lokayukta report on illegal mining indicting him.
The 70-year-old Lingayat leader's attempts to regain chief ministership was cold-shouldered by the party top brass who asked him to come clean on corruption cases.
His bid for state party president had also failed and the party sidelining him proved to be the last straw.
Yeddy dares Shettar to quit, dissolve assembly
"I challenge Shettar to prove majority in the assembly without the support of my loyalist ministers and legislators. Let him take action against them if he has guts. Otherwise, he should resign and dissolve the assembly for holding elections early," thundered Yeddyurappa at a mammoth public rally held to launch the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) here, about 350 km from Bangalore.
Taking over as president of the new regional party in the run-up to the assembly election, Yeddyurappa warned the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against taking disciplinary action against 14-18 of its lawmakers, including half-a-dozen cabinet ministers who participated in the rally and were present on the dais in a show of strength for him.
"I just got information that action will be taken against the 14-18 legislators present on the dais. In that case, I tell Shettar that you do not have a majority and hence quit immediately," Yeddyurappa said in a raised voice, which was cheered by the crowds.
BJP state unit president K.S. Eshwarappa had Saturday warned the loyalists, including 10 cabinet ministers and over a score of party legislators of strict action if they participated in Yeddyurappa's Haveri rally and shared the dais with him. Even attending breakfast meeting with the former chief minister would be considered as an anti-party activity.
"Shettar should know that he is in the chief minister's seat because of my loyalists and that the BJP government is surviving with the support of my loyalists. About 50-60 legislators are ready to quit and join my new party.
"But I told them not to do so and precipitate political crisis in the state as assembly election is due in the next four-five months," Yeddyurappa asserted.
Ignoring Eshwarappa's diktat, six cabinet ministers and over a dozen party legislators drove to Haveri from Belgaum in north Karnataka for a breakfast meeting with Yeddyurappa at his friend's house and stayed back to participate in the rally post-noon.
The ministers were C.M. Udasi (public works), Basavaraj Bommai (water resources), Murugesh Nirani (major industries), M.P. Renukacharya (excise), Revu Naik Belamagi (animal husbandry) and Shobha Karandlaje (power).
"Shettar and Eshwarappa (also deputy chief minister) should know that they are running a coalition government of BJP and KJP as more than 50 percent of their party legislators are with me and ready to join the regional party anytime. They will not be in power even for a day without my support," claimed the 69-year-old Yeddyurappa.
The BJP has 118 members, including assembly Speaker (K.G. Bopaiah) in the 225-member legislative assembly and 44 in the 75-member legislative council.
The Shettar cabinet is 34-strong, including him.
The open defiance by the ministers and legislators came a day after state Infrastructure Minister Sunil Valyapure resigned from the Shettar cabinet hours after the BJP sacked Cooperation Minister B.J. Puttaswamy and suspended its Tumkur Lok Sabha member G.S. Basavaraj from the party for backing Yeddyurappa.
BJP dares Yeddyurappa to topple Shettar govt, calls him 'paper tiger'
Karnataka chief minister Jagadish Shettar on Sunday ruled out dissolving the state assembly even as uncertainty loomed over the future of his government after 13 BJP MLAs openly backed former party strongman BS Yeddyurappa.
"I still command the support of 120 MLAs. There is no question of dissolving the assembly," Shettar told reporters at Hubli rejecting the opposition's demand for his resignation after more than a dozen BJP MLAs shared the dais with Yeddyurappa at the launch of his Karnataka Janata Party at Haveri.
Seeking to downplay the open defiance by 13 MLAs who participated in the KJP-launch rally, Shettar said "only 10-12" MLAs attended (the event).
At Shimoga, deputy chief minister and state unit BJP President KS Eswarappa dared Yeddyurappa to topple the Shettar government.
Slamming Yeddyurappa, whom he described as a "paper tiger", he asked, "where are the 60 MLAs?" Eswarappa was referring to the Lingayat strongman's claim that at least 60 legislators supported him.
Eswarappa also said there was no question of dissolving the Assembly and challenged the Congress-JDS-KJP to bring down the state government.
Eswarappa said top BJP leaders would meet at Belgaum on December 12 to debate on various issues including the act of indiscipline by some of the party legislators and action to be taken against them.
In the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, BJP has a strength of 118, Congress 71, JDS 26, Independents seven and two vacancies.