With the BJP government in Karnataka tottering on the brink of collapse after former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa floated his breakaway party on Sunday, the BJP is believed to be considering dissolution of the State Assembly in order to avert a further erosion in its legislative strength.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar continues to maintain a bold front, saying that there is no need to dissolve the State Assembly since he still commands the support of 120 MLAs. But CNN-IBN reported, citing sources, that the BJP would take a decision within the next two or three days on the merits of dissolving the Assembly in order to cut the party's losses.
But it is likely that Governor HR Bharadwaj will keep the Assembly in suspended animation, to keep alive the possibility that an alternative political arrangement could take power, the report added, citing unidentified sources.
Political currents in the sole southern State where the BJP has a foothold are eddying fast: on Sunday, 13 BJP MLAs shared the dais with Yeddyurappa when he launched his Karnataka Janata Party (KJP). That effectively reduced the Shettar government to a minority in the 224-member Assembly.
Earlier on Sunday, some 21 MLAs, seven MLCs and four Lok Sabha members had met Yeddyurappa at a breakfast meeting hosted by the strongman who has fallen out with the BJP and has served notice of his intention to take on the party.
It meant that Shettar's warning to Yeddyurappa's supporters within the government on Saturday - when he sacked his lieutenant BJ Puttaswamy from the ministry - had gone largely unheeded. He had also warned BJP MLAs against participating in Yeddyurappa's rally, but now that 13 MLAs have broken ranks, claimed they had resigned from the BJP and joined Yeddyurappa's party, Shettar's authority stands vastly diminished.
The BJP has a strength of 118 in the 224-member Assembly; the Congress has 71 MLAs, the JD(S) accounts for 26; and there are Independents and two vacancies.
The political developments of Sunday amplified the Congress' calls for the resignation of the BJP government on the ground that it had been reduced to a minority. KPCC President G Parameshwara and Congress leader in the State Assembly Siddarmaiah said the BJP government would soon collapse.
On Sunday, Yeddyurappa criticised the BJP for the action against Puttaswamy as "selective". Given that he had the support of many more Ministers, MLAs and MPs in the BJP, he dared the BJP leadership to take action against all of them - and dissolve the Assembly and seek a fresh mandate. Addressing the rally, a show of strength, a combative Yeddyurappa slammed Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and threw down the gauntlet at him to seek a fresh mandate.
Shettar responded to say that action would be taken against those who defied the party directive and participated in Yeddyurappa's rally. "There is no question of tolerating indiscipline," he added.
But Yeddyurappa too has been somewhat chastened by the fact that no more BJP MLAs and MPs had turned up for his breakfast meeting. According to sources, he was expecting more than 40 MLAs to turn up for the event, which would have decisively signalled the wholesale collapse of the BJP government's authority in the State.
Even so, Yeddyurappa said he saw a bright future for his party, and that he would begin a state-wide tour, starting from Bidar in the next few days to expand on his party's support base.
Yeddyurappa's floating of a new party signals a decisive break away from the BJP, with which he has been associated for some 40 years. For the past 16 months, and particularly after he was asked to step down as Chief Minister in July 2011 following the Lokayukta indictment of him in illegal mining, he has been locked in power tussle with the BJP leadership.
The Lingayat leader has for sometime now been clamouring to be reinstated as Chief Minister, but the party had ignored his tantrums, and asked him to clear himself of the corruption charges before making a pitch for the post. The party leadership also neutralised his effort to at least be appointed State party president.
With inputs from agencies