BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa took oath as the chief minister of Karnataka at the Raj Bhavan in Bengaluru on Thursday morning, hours after the Supreme Court rejected a petition seeking a stay on the ceremony.
Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala administered the oath in the presence of senior state BJP leaders and Union ministers, even as Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress leaders protested outside. Heavy police security was put in place to ensure that no untoward incident occurs on the occasion.
Yeddyurappa (75) takes over as the chief minister after two days of uncertainty since the votes were counted on May 15, when the BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the state with 104 seats but fell short of reaching the half-way mark of 112 in the assembly. The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) joined hands in the hours that followed, and approached the governor with a request to let them form the next government in the state with HD Kumaraswamy as the chief minister. They also submitted a letter with the signatures of 116 legislators to Vala.
This was preceded by Yeddyurappa staking his own claim.
On Wednesday night, Vala invited Yeddyurappa to form the government in the state — prompting the Congress to challenge the decision in Supreme Court. While the apex court did not dismiss the petition, it permitted Yeddyurappa to take oath as the chief minister. It will hear the Congress’ plea at 10.30 am on Friday.
Vala has given Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove his majority on the floor of the house, prompting analysts to fear that the BJP will use this period to convince legislators of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) to abstain from voting. The Congress also objected to the length of time provided to the BJP.
“The BJP has just 104 MLAs in support and the governor has invited BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the government. It is completely unconstitutional,” Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at the hearing before Justices AK Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and SA Bobde that began around 2 am on Thursday, ANI reported.
BJP’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi asked for the petition to be dismissed, saying the governor is doing his job and the court should not prevent a constitutional functionary from fulfilling his official duties.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) should have waited for the floor test to be conducted instead of filing the petition.
Constitutional expert Babu Mathew, professor at the National Law School of India University, said that while there might have been precedents in the past, the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Goa assembly was clear that the coalition or party with the majority was to be invited to form the government.
“While the general rule is that the single largest party should be invited to form the government, this does not hold if the party does not have a simple majority,” Mathew said. “If it is fairly clear that the party does not have a majority, and it is still invited to prove its majority, then the door is opened to horse-trading.”