With the threat of BJP poaching MLAs through ‘Operation Lotus’ looming over their heads, the JD(S) and Congress have already shifted their MLAs to resorts.
The bitter battle of Karnataka Assembly Election 2018 has not ended yet. Though no clear winner could be declared due to the fractured mandate, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats. BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate and the Lingayat Heavyweight leader BS Yeddyurappa was invited by the Governor of Karnataka Vajubhai Vala to form a government. Today, Yeddyurappa sworn-in as the CM of Karnataka for the third time. But the road ahead is not smooth for the BJP.
Sensing that the Congress cannot form a government on its own with only 78 seats, the party’s top echelons took quick steps and struck a deal with the JD(S) and offered the CM post to the HD Kumaraswamy. The Congress and JDS together have the strength of 115 MLAs. Adding to it the two independent candidates supported by the Congress, the number goes up to 117 which is above the magic figure mark. On the other hand, the BJP which has 104 MLAs is still short of 9 MLAs.
The BJP, however, is granted 15 days by the governor to prove the majority. While the matter is due in Supreme Court and hearing is scheduled on Friday at 10.30 AM, the swearing-in ceremony has triggered a panic in opposition. With the threat of MLA poaching looming over their head, the JD(S) and Congress have already shifted their MLAs to resorts. All the drama happening in Karnataka since the past two days poses a question, will BJP repeat its highly infamous ‘Operation Lotus’?
Karnataka’s unstable governments:
After the Assembly elections in the year 2004, the state of Karnataka witnessed series of unstable governments with Presidential Rule being imposed in the state twice. The fallout between the JDS and Congress made a way for the first Presidential Rule in the state. While JDS later formed the government with the support of BJP with the promise of transferring the CM position to BJP candidate BS Yeddyurappa after 20 months, it failed to keep the promise and the government collapsed. After weeks of negotiation, the two parties formed the government under the leadership of BS Yeddyurappa but it also did not last and the Presidential rule was imposed for the second time.
The Assembly Elections of 2008:
The 2008 Assembly Election, however, boosted the BJP’s prospect. The party emerged as the Single Largest Party by winning 110 seats. But again, it fell short of a majority. The JD(S) won 28 seats and Congress became the second largest seat-getter with 80 MLAs. Fearing the days of unstable government, CM BS Yeddyurappa spearheaded an MLA poaching exercise famously code-worded as the ‘Operation Lotus’ or “Operation Kamala”.
What Is Operation Lotus?
The horse-trading of MLAs or simply luring the MLAs with money and power is not a new strategy to Indian politics. But ‘Operation Lotus’ took it one step further. Apparently, the BJP successfully turned 20 JD(S) and Congress MLAs to their side. But to escape the anti-defection law, the BJP made them resign from their respective parties. This necessitated the by-polls which in turn were vigorously fought by the BJP. The BJP went on to win the most of these re-contested seats and formed the government in the state.
However, the party did not stop there. The same modus operandi was taken to the grass root level. The model of ‘Operation Lotus’ was implied during the local body elections to woo thousands of candidates of other parties.
Will we see Operation Lotus 2.0?
The 2018 Assembly Elections result has once again refreshed the memories of 2008 Assembly Elections. With BJP emerging as the Single largest party but failing to reach the majority mark, speculations are rife that the party might also opt for ‘Operation Lotus’ 2.0. The BJP has already been accused by the JD(S) president H D Kumaraswamy of trying to woo him by offering 100 crores as a bribe. The Congress has also raised the possibility of BJP using ED and other government-controlled institutions to intimidate their MLAs.
The party now has 15 days in hands to prove the majority. The floor test will be crucial in determining whether BJP be able to continue to govern or has to make way for the Congress-JD(S) alliance.