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Karnataka poll results: BJP has a few options at its disposal to go from 104 seats to the magic number of 112

For the BJP that looks at Karnataka as its gateway to south India, BS Yeddyurappa will need eight more MLAs to force open the door to the seat of power in the Vidhana Soudha. The Supreme court made Yeddyurappa's swearing-in on Thursday a provisional affair and will look closely at his letters given to Governor Vajubhai Vala on 15 and 16 May, if they indicate how the magic number of 112 will be managed.

What is the BJP's strategy going ahead?

If the Government of Karnataka is now c/o Ballari, the Reddy brothers and associates will want to repeat Operation Kamala that they perfected as an art form in 2008. Then several Congress and JD(S) legislators were nudged to resign from their seats bringing down the strength of the House for the Yeddyurappa regime to reach a lesser majority mark. Subsequently, seven of them contested seats on the BJP ticket and five of them got re-elected. The entire deal was said to be orchestrated by the Reddy group, reinforcing their clout in ensuring the BJP government survived.

So much so that during Yeddyurappa's earlier stint as chief minister between 2008 and 2011, tainted mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy used to point out that BSY is only chief minister in Bengaluru. "I am the chief minister of Ballari," he used to reportedly brag.

The first option a decade later would be to do Operation Kamala version 2.0. The numbers are six lower than last time — 104 compared to 110 in 2008, making the job that much more difficult. What they need to do is to ensure 14 absentations in order to bring down the half mark to 104 so that the BJP crosses the line.

Union ministers flank BS Yeddyurappa, after he was elected leader of the BJP legislature party. PTI

Union ministers flank BS Yeddyurappa, after he was elected leader of the BJP legislature party. PTI

How do they do it?

On target are MLAs who have any CBI or Income Tax cases against them that will make them vulnerable. Legislator from Vijaypura Anand Singh, who moved from the BJP to the Congress before the elections, is one such weak link. A mining baron who was arrested by the CBI, he has been telling his supporters in Ballari that he will stick with the Congress. But he has gone incommunicado on more than one occasion in the past 48 hours, raising doubts over his loyalty.

BJP leaders who believe India is a naive country say Opposition MLAs will cross over out of love for Yeddyurappa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership. But in reality, caste and cash are the twin attractions in the Big Billion Day sale playing out in Flipkart city, Bengaluru.

Which is why the second target are the Lingayat legislators of the Congress if the BJP can play on their unhappiness over HD Kumaraswamy, a Vokkaliga, leading the government. Caste affiliation is being exploited with the Lingayat MLAs told that they should rally behind their community strongman Yeddyurappa. This will be easier said than done because it will be tough for the Lingayat Congress MLAs to explain their shift of party within hours of being elected.

More than the JD(S) legislators, it is the Congress group that is more vulnerable. The JD(S), even those who are not from the Old Mysore region, will hope to find representation in the cabinet because Kumaraswamy would like to show his is not a south Karnataka party and show a pan-Karnataka representation. Within the Congress, those from the Hyderabad-Karnataka region districts of Ballari, Chitradurga, Raichur — the patch that was virtually outsourced to the Reddys during the election — will be most susceptible to being wooed.

For those MLAs who are reluctant to contest another election, this time on a BJP ticket, there is a Plan B. Elections to six seats in the Karnataka Legislative Council are due on 8 June and with its strength of 104, the BJP should be in a position to win four of those seats. These could be offered to any of those who agree to defect.

With B Sriramulu, and by extension Janardhana Reddy, tasked with the job of ensuring the Yeddyurappa government survives, Karnataka can well imagine what it is in for. With the BJP indulging in whataboutery, referring to earlier cases when the Congress used its power from New Delhi, it is clear it is a case of 'my unethicality' versus 'your unethicality'.

Yeddyurappa stayed as chief minister for just seven days in 2007 and 39 months between 2008 and 2011 before he was forced to quit. Day One of his third term has begun, but Yeddyurappa has no idea if the expiry date is a few days away or in 2023. ​

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Updated Date: May 18, 2018 10:15 AM

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