NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: With his political future hanging by a slender thread, BS Yeddyurappa was on Thursday sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka for the third time amid protests by the JD(S)-Congress combine whose MLAs hunkered down in resorts and hotels following alleged attempts at poaching by the BJP.
The rare post-midnight sitting of the court took place after the Congress and ally JD(S) challenged Governor Vajubhai Vala's decision to invite the BJP to form the government despite the strength of alliance numbers. The BJP has 105 MLAs, including an Independent, in comparison to the 117 lawmakers of the alliance in the 224-member assembly. Yeddyurappa has 15 days to prove his majority. The court said while it is allowing the oath to proceed, it would be "subject to the outcome of the case".
Even as Yeddyurappa was taking oath at Raj Bhavan, Congress and JD(S) leaders sat at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi's statue at Vidhana Sauda, the state secretariat, to protest against the governor's decision.
"Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is misusing his office. The governor's action is undemocratic and unconstitutional....he is indirectly encouraging horse- trading," Yeddyurappa's predecessor Siddramaiah said.
Congress MLAs, who were lodged at Eagleton Resort under the watch of resourceful party MLA and minister in the Siddaramaiah government D K Shivakumar, were brought to the venue for some time before being herded back. The newly elected JD(S) MLAs are staying at a hotel in the state capital.
Attacking the prime minister, Kumaraswamy said he was out to "demolish" democracy.
Calling the governor's decision "unconstitutional", he claimed the prime minister was using central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate to threaten Congress and JD(S) MLAs to break ranks and support the BJP government.
Yeddyurappa appeared upbeat and said: "I am sure of winning vote of confidence and will serve a 5-year term," he later said.
"We have been given 15 days to prove majority. We must not wait for 15 days. We must prove majority before that," he said on Thursday evening while addressing a press conference.
"Yeddyurappa may prove to be "Ek din ka chief minister," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, daring the BJP to prove its majority on Friday.
Governor Vala had extended invitation to the BJP after meeting both sides during the day. The Congress, which had been prepping a petition in view of such an eventuality, immediately moved to court, calling Governor's decision "an encounter of the constitution".
The Congress also requested a freeze on the oath ceremony and contended that the two-week time-frame encouraged horse-trading. "It is the biggest license to poaching," said Abhishek Singhvi, who was representing the alliance in court.
KK Venugopal, the government's former top law officer, insisted that the court could not stay the governor's decision. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing two BJP lawmakers, said no injunction can be issued to the governor.
The top court has ordered the BJP to produce the letters submitted by BS Yeddyurappa to the governor to stake claim to form the government. "JDS and Congress outweigh the BJP. In a situation like this, on what basis has Yeddyurappa claimed he has the numbers. Arithmetic defies the way he was invited," the court observed.