Bangalore: The crisis-ridden Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is pulling out all stops to save its first government in Karnataka by trying to prove majority in the legislative assembly Oct 11 after being reduced to minority following withdrawal of support by 19 legislators, including 14 of the ruling party.
Asserting that he was ready to face the trust vote, an unfazed Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa sacked two rebel ministers - Anand Asnotikar (fisheries) and Balachandra Jarkiholi (municipalities & local bodies) Thursday and threatened disciplinary action against the dissidents if they did not fall in line by Friday or Saturday.
"I appeal to the aggrieved legislators to return and avoid disciplinary action. They will not only face expulsion from the party, but also not be able to contest the elections for six years under the anti-defection law," Yeddyurappa told reporters here.
Majority of the rebels, including nine from the BJP, continued to defy the party leaders and remained away from Bangalore by hopping from Chennai to Goa via Kochi and Mumbai.
In the evening, three dissidents - S.K. Bellubbi, Rajugouda Naik and M.V. Nagaraju -returned to the party fold and agreed to back Yeddyurappa.
Two more joined in - D.G. Patil and B.P. Harish.
"Of the 14 rebels, five, have come back to support the government. Efforts are on to convince the remaining nine to return to the party fold. We are confident of wooing them back," state Infrastructure and Tourism Minister G. Janaradhan Reddy told reporters before he flew to Panaji to win over the rebels.
Rattled by the deepening crisis in the southern state where it rode to power in May 2008, the BJP high command rushed senior party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu to Bangalore for ensuring that the Yeddyurappa government would sail through the trust vote Monday.
"We are confident of resolving the crisis by Sunday. We are ready to address the grievances of the rebel legislators and consider their genuine demands," Naidu told reporters after day-long confabulations at a resort on the outskirts of the city.
Signalling that he was in control of the government and the party, Yeddyurappa sacked four independent ministers Wednesday after they submitted a joint letter to state Governor H.R. Bhardwaj withdrawing support.
The four independent ministers were agriculture marketing & small scale industries minister Shivaraj S. Tangadagi, textile & sericulture minister Venkataramanappa, social welfare minister P.M. Narendra Swamy and youth services & prisons minister D. Sudhakar.
In the 225-member assembly, including one nominated member, Yeddyurappa will require 113 votes to prove majority and save his government from the brink.
With six independents, including Varthur Prakash and Goolihatti Shekar, who was dropped from the 34-member ministry as minister of youth and sports Sept 22, withdrawing support, the ruling party strength will require another five more legislators to survive the trust vote as five of the rebels have done a u-turn to back Yeddyurappa.
The opposition Congress has 73 legislators and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) has 28.
In a related development, the assembly secretariat has convened a two-day special session Oct 11-12 to take up the confidence motion and enable Yeddyurappa to prove majority on the floor of the house.