BJP Chief Minister sworn in after challenge fails

Mr B. S. Yeddyurappa signs the documents after he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka in Bangalore yesterday. The Congress party had tried to stop him from taking the oath.
Mr B. S. Yeddyurappa signs the documents after he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Karnataka in Bangalore yesterday. The Congress party had tried to stop him from taking the oath.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI • A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party took the oath to become Chief Minister of a key southern Indian state yesterday, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.

Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made huge gains in the Karnataka state election but fell short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch-rival, Congress.

The Congress party, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday's election, tried to stop the BJP's B. S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by forming a coalition with a smaller regional party.

The BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party, with 104 seats. State governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave the right-wing party 15 days to prove it has a majority. Congress went to the Supreme Court to block the BJP, but after a three-hour night-time hearing that lasted until dawn, the court said the oath ceremony should go ahead.

Lawyers for Congress, which saw its number of seats cut from 122 to 78, had told the court the party had a ready majority with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party, which has 37 seats.

Congress and Janata Dal also claim the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their lawmakers to switch sides. The BJP denied the claims.

Mr Yeddyurappa expressed confidence that he would get the required support for a vote of confidence that the new government would have to pass in the assembly. If the BJP loses the vote, his administration would collapse.

"I am 100 per cent sure of success," he told reporters.

Dozens of leaders from Congress and their allies held a sit-in protest outside the state government building against Mr Yeddyurappa becoming chief minister.

Congress is desperate to cling on to Karnataka, its last major bastion after being defeated in 12 state elections since it lost the national government to Mr Modi in 2014.

With national elections due next year, state polls are being closely watched by all parties in India.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline 'BJP Chief Minister sworn in after challenge fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe