Ever since the Karnataka assembly elections in 2018 threw up a hung house, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, has been unhappy at its inability to establish a government in Bengaluru.
First, as the single largest party with a friendly governor, the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the 23rd chief minister of the state even though the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) also staked a claim. However, while the governor had allowed the BJP 15 days to prove its majority on the floor of the assembly, a Supreme Court ruling cut short that time to two days. This crippled the party’s efforts to cobble together a majority. Yeddyurappa had to resign within 48 hours of being sworn in. His stint as chief minister was one of the shortest ever.
The BJP has been sulking even as the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, which was sworn in on May 23, 2018,stumbles from one crisis to another. After waiting for nearly seven months to see whether the coalition would fall under the weight of its own contradictions, Yeddyurappa, who turned 75 last year, has realised that time is running out. After the 2019 general elections, circumstances may not be as propitious at the Centre for him to mount an attempt to unseat the coalition government in the state, and so he has made the current effort.
For the BJP, having a government in Karnataka is important for a few reasons. Smarting from the electoral setbacks in the Hindi heartland — where it lost power to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh — the party wants to deprive its key national opponent of states from which resources can be mobilised for the national battle. It would also help the BJP re-establish a beachhead in the south for only the second time ever.