Bengaluru: The Congress-JDS government in Karnataka collapsed on Monday after the confidence motion moved by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy was defeated in the assembly, ending his 14-month-long turbulent tenure.
Capping a three-week-long high-voltage intense power struggle triggered by a raft of resignations by rebel lawmakers, that pushed the government to the brink of collapse, the motion was defeated with 99 members voting for the motion and 105 against it.
“The motion moved by the Chief Minister has fallen through,” Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar announced.
Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy watched the proceedings sitting in a pensive mood after a spirited reply to the debate.
With rebellion exploding in its face, the coalition government was hanging by a thread for the last three weeks, with the Supreme Court verdict that rebel lawmakers ought not to be compelled to attend the session tipping the scales in favour of the BJP.
Kumaraswamy also submitted his resignation letter to Governor Vajubhai Vala shortly after losing the confidence motion.
He drove to the Raj Bhavan along with Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara and other senior colleagues and handed over the resignation, officials said.
“I hereby tender my resignation to the post of chief minister of Karnataka along with my cabinet and I request you to kindly accept the same. I take this opportunity to extend grateful thanks for the cooperation given to me and my colleagues during the tenure,” the letter said.
In his letter to Kumaraswamy, the Governor said, “I have accepted the resignation tendered by you with immediate effect. Until alternate arrangements are made, kindly continue as caretaker Chief Minister. It is needless to state that no executive decisions should be taken during this period.”
Outwitted in the numbers game and defeat staring in his face with the rebel MLAs in no mood to step back from their position not to attend the assembly session, Kumaraswamy gave indications of quitting in the initial remarks while winding up the debate on a confidence motion.
“I am ready to happily sacrifice this position,” he said appearing resigned to the fate of his ministry, as the assembly debated the confidence motion for four days.
Twenty-one MLAs– Congress-JDS (17), BSP (1), Independents (2) skipped the proceedings, reducing the effective strength of the House to 204.
The magic figure required was 103.
In his reply, Kumaraswamy said discussions were on why he had not resigned and was sticking to the chair.
Sounding philosophical, he said that when the 2018 assembly polls results were out, he had plans to quit politics.
“My political entry itself was all of a sudden and unexpected”.
Kumaraswamy lashed out at the BJP for repeatedly trying to topple his government and told the saffron party that its government would not last long and in the event of collapse, it is better to go for elections.
“First bomb will explode in ministry formation,” he said.
Asserting that his government was not shameless, he asked, “what wrong have we committed. We tried to create history. We have worked honestly to provide a people-friendly government.”
Accusing the BJP of being in a hurry, he said, “I am not going to run away after the speech. Let the people of the state know why I was removed. I am not going to run away fearing numbers. Let the votes be counted. Chief Minister’s seat is not permanent to anyone.”
The BJP did not take part in the debate except for interventions and remained silent despite allegations thrown at it by the Congress and JDS members.
In his speech, Congress leader Siddaramaiah Tuesday accused the BJP of trying come to power through backdoor using bribery and “wholesale” trade of MLAs.
He said the 15 MLAs resigning was nothing but “wholesale trade.”
Siddaramaiah alleged that “Rs 20,25 and 30 crore” were offered to lure the MLAs and asked “Where did this money come from?” Flashing the victory sign after the voting, BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa described the outcome as a “victory for democracy” as people were fed up with the Kumaraswamy government.
He assured the people of Karnataka that “an era of development” would start with BJP in power.
On the next step, Yeddyurappa said an appropriate decision would be taken “as early as possible.”
The government had defied two deadlines set by Governor Vajubhai Lala, who had asked Kumaraswamy to prove his majority on Friday itself, saying he had “prima facie satisfaction” that it has lost its majority confidence of the house.
The turmoil reached the climax after dramatic twists and turns that saw the MLAs of rival camps being corralled in resorts and hotels, allegations of bribery, rebel lawmakers knock the doors of the Supreme Court to decide on the issues of the whip, floor test and governor’s intervention.
Kumaraswamy and the Congress had moved the Supreme Court accusing the Governor of interfering with the Assembly proceedings when the debate on the trust vote was underway and sought clarification on its July 17 order causing hindrance in issuing whip to the legislators.
The court had held that the MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the Assembly proceedings.
The ruling coalition made frenetic efforts to win back the rebels with chief minister making a desperate appeal to them on Sunday to attend the session to save his ministry but they refused to budge, sealing the fate of his government.
As many as 16 MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from JDS– had resigned, while independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh had withdrawn their support to the coalition government, pushing it to the precipice.
One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted from his decision to resign, saying he would support the government.
Before the en masse resignations, the ruling combine’s strength was 117– Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker.
This is the third motion on trust vote after the 2018 assembly polls yielded a fractured mandate with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 104 seats, but failing to mobilise numbers.
BJP added one more to its tally after the victory of an MLA in a by-election.
Yeddyurappa had resigned as CM after being in office for three days before facing the trust vote in May last year.
Kumaraswamy, who succeeded him, had won the trust vote after forming the coalition government.
The trial of strength took place a day after the Supreme Court ruled on July 17 that the 15 rebel Congress-JDS MLAs “ought not” to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the state Assembly.
The Karnataka drama unfolded with Anand Singh quitting on July 1 as an assembly member, setting off a wave of resignations that swamped the ruling coalition, putting the government in jeopardy.
Fighting the battle for survival, the ruling coalition used all ammunition to tame the rebels from making offers to holding out the threat of disqualification but all in vain.
BJP, accused of making repeated attempts to topple the coalition government, managed to hold its flock together, herding them together in a hotel in Mumbai from the time the crisis erupted till the climax, amid allegations by the Congress that they were being held in confinement.
In his missive to Kumaraswamy, the governor had expressed his “prima facie satisfaction” that the government has lost its majority confidence of the house.
“When the allegations of horse-trading are widely made and I am receiving many complaints, it is constitutionally imperative that the floor test be completed without any delay and today itself,” the governor had told Kumaraswamy on Friday.
Apprehensive of poaching bid from each other, the lawmakers from both camps were held in hotels and resorts and were being brought to the assembly in buses.
Fighting to save the government, Congress and JDS had sought disqualification of its rebel legislators accusing the BJP of using money power to lure its members.