A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party took the oath to become chief minister of a key southern Indian state Thursday after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made huge gains in the Karnataka state election but fell short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival Congress.
The Congress party, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday’s election, tried to stop the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by forming a coalition with a smaller regional party.
The BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party with 104 seats. State governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave the right-wing party 15 days to prove it has a majority.
Congress went to the Supreme Court to block the BJP, but after a rare three-hour night-time hearing that lasted until dawn, the court said the oath ceremony should go ahead.
Lawyers for Congress, which saw its number of seats cut from 122 to 78, had told the judge bench that the party had a ready majority with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party which has 37 seats.
Congress and Janata Dal also claim the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their lawmakers to switch sides.
Janata Dal leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the BJP had offered $15 million each to as many as 32 lawmakers. The BJP denies the claims.
Yeddyurappa expressed confidence that he would get the required support for a vote of confidence that the new government would have to pass in the assembly. If the BJP loses the vote his administration would collapse.
“I am 100 per cent sure of success,” he told reporters after taking over as the chief minister of one of India’s most prosperous states.
Dozens of leaders from Congress, India’s oldest political party, and their allies held a sit-in protest outside the state government building against Yeddyurappa becoming chief minister.
Congress is desperate to cling on to Karnataka, its last major bastion after being defeated in 12 state elections since it lost the national government to Modi in 2014.
Its leader Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has not won a state election since he took over from his mother Sonia Gandhi last year.
With national elections due next year, state polls are being closely watched by all parties in India.