Karnataka's BJP survives vote of confidence


The Hindu nationalist BJP government in India's Karnataka state has won a key vote of confidence in controversial circumstances.

Amid unruly scenes, the speaker KG Bopaiah disqualified 16 rebel lawmakers ahead of the assembly vote, saying they had violated anti-defection laws.

The 11 BJP and five independent lawmakers say they will contest their disqualification in court.

Last week's revolt followed a cabinet reshuffle and corruption allegations.

Karnataka is the only southern Indian state where the BJP wields power.

"We are happy. We have the numbers," BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said after his party won the vote.

'Punch thrown'

But the main opposition Congress party and Janata Dal (Secular) parties said they would challenge the vote.

"This is the darkest day in Karnataka politics. We will appeal to the governor against the undemocratic manner in which the vote was conducted," local Congress party leader RV Deshpande told a news channel.

Another opposition leader said Mr Bopaiah's decision to conduct a "voice vote" was illegal.

Mr Bopaiah is a BJP member.

"Nowhere have we heard of a confidence vote passed by a 'voice vote' and legislators disqualified ahead of the vote. We will protest against this," Danish Ali of Janata Dal (Secular) said.

The disqualification of the 16 lawmakers plunged the assembly into chaos - and in the ensuing melee, an assembly security official was reportedly punched by a lawmaker, reports say.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was reduced to a minority last week after 20 lawmakers withdrew support.

Fifteen BJP lawmakers and five independents sent a letter on Wednesday to the state governor saying they would no longer back Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa's administration.

They included seven ministers, three of whom were BJP members. The other four were all independents, who were sacked by Mr Yeddyurappa.

The BJP had 116 lawmakers in the 224-member assembly before the mutiny.

After the disqualification of 16 lawmakers, the strength of the assembly was 208.

The revolt comes days after allegations surfaced of a land scandal involving the chief minister and one of his senior colleagues.

Mr Yeddyurappa is accused of giving away government land in Bangalore to his family members.

And the son of IT Minister Katta Subramanya was arrested for allegedly trying to bribe a key witness in a land scam case.

Opposition parties have called on the state governor to sack Mr Yeddyurappa.

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