Karnataka's numbers game

Indo Asian News Service

Bangalore, Jan 23 (IANS) With 13 rebel BJP legislators, including two ministers who quit the cabinet Wednesday, ready to resign from the assembly, it is number-churning time for the ruling BJP to save its third government in over four years.

The two ministers who quit the cabinet are C.M. Udasi (public works) and Shobha Karandlaje (energy).

Udasi, Karandlaje and 11 other BJP legislators could not submit their resignation letters Wednesday to Speaker K.G. Bopaiah as he is out of the country.

They waited in the speaker's chamber for over an hour and decided to meet Governor H.R. Bhardwaj later in the day to inform him that they no longer support the Shettar government.

Their decision brings down the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's strength in the 225-member assembly to 105, including the speaker. The BJP has the support of one independent, who is a cabinet minister -- taking its effective strength to 106.

The combined opposition strength is 97 with the Congress having 71 legislators and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) 26.

There are six other independents and one nominated member, while two seats are vacant.

Udasi claimed that another four or five legislators are ready to quit.

If more than 20 BJP legislators quit the assembly then the survival of the Jagadish Shettar ministry will depend on the ruling party's ability to muster the support of independents.

The BJP can also hope that the opposition would walk out of the assembly just ahead of the trust vote, which Shettar is certain to be asked to take by Governor H.R. Bhardwaj.

The resignations are being orchestrated by former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who quit the party and the assembly Nov 30 to lead the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) as he was not made the state BJP chief "as promised" by the party's central leadership.

Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit the chief minister's post in July 2011 over mining bribery charges, is spearheading the rebellion.

He wants to bring down the Shettar government to prevent it from presenting the 2013-14 budget as that could help the ruling party in the assembly elections due in May.

Shettar, who became chief minister in July last year, holds the finance portfolio. He has fixed Feb 8 as the day to present his maiden budget. The legislature's budget session begins here Feb 4 and is scheduled to end Feb 13.

The Congress and JD-S are also opposing Shettar presenting a budget on the ground that he has in effect lost majority in the assembly and hence has no moral right not only to present the budget but even to continue in office.