Indian state chief resigns to avoid vote of confidence

BANGALORE • The Chief Minister of a key Indian state plunged into a political crisis that saw Supreme Court hearings and accusations of bribery quit yesterday, after admitting he did not have enough support to form a government.

Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stepped down after just two days, and minutes before he was to face a vote of confidence in the Karnataka state assembly.

His move ended a week of mounting acrimony between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP and the opposition Congress party.

Congress, which ruled the southern state until an election last week, will now get a new chance to form a government with a regional ally. The battle could set the tone for a national election next year.

The BJP deposed Congress as the biggest party after the Karnataka election last Saturday. But its 104 seats were not enough for a majority in the 224-member assembly.

Congress saw its numbers slashed from 122 to 78 seats but it formed a coalition with the regional Janata Dal (Secular) which finished with 37 seats.

"The mandate was not for Congress and Janata Dal. They lost the election but they indulged in opportunist politics," Mr Yeddyurappa told the assembly.

"I will lose nothing if I lose power. I am going straight to the governor's house to give my resignation," the 75-year-old said.

Opposition lawmakers cheered and flashed V for victory signs as Mr Yeddyurappa left the assembly followed by his supporters.

The build-up to the resignation saw claims of bribery and poaching against the BJP after the state governor asked Mr Yeddyurappa to try to form an administration although he did not have a majority.

Congress went to the Supreme Court to try to prevent the BJP from forming a government in the prosperous state, home to the IT hub of Bangalore.

The court ruled on Thursday that Mr Yeddyurappa should be allowed to take an oath of office. But a day later it said he must pass a vote of confidence yesterday.

India's top court met a third time yesterday to reject a move by Congress to stop Mr Yeddyurappa appointing a speaker of his choice.

Congress and its ally accused the BJP of offering up to US$15 million (S$20 million) to their members to switch sides in the vote. The BJP strongly denied the allegation.

"I am proud that they have been shown that in India power, corruption and money is not everything but the will of people is everything," Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said in New Delhi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 20, 2018, with the headline 'Indian state chief resigns to avoid vote of confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe