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Yeddyurappa lasted 55 hours and still didn’t end up as CM with the shortest tenure

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Jagadambika Pal in Uttar Pradesh, 1998, and Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand, 2016, sat on the chief minister’s chair for just over 24 hours or so.

New Delhi: B.S. Yeddyurappa resigned as chief minister of Karnataka  Saturday after only 55 hours – he was CM from 9 am on 17 May to 4 pm on 19 May – on being unable to prove a majority on the floor of the assembly as mandated by the Supreme Court, but he still doesn’t win the prize for the shortest chief ministerial tenure.

That accolade must be reserved for both Jagadambika Pal in Uttar Pradesh 1998 — now BJP MP from Domariyaganj  — and Harish Rawat, Congress chief minister of Uttarakhand, in April 2016. Both of them sat on the chief minister’s chair for just over 24 hours.

Yeddyurappa himself is no stranger to the joys of short tenures. He was chief minister in Karnataka for just seven days in 2007, when his coalition partner, H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (S) refused to keep his side of the bargain by letting him become CM.

Clearly, some of the characters in the current-day Karnataka drama have remained the same over the last decade.

In early 2006, Yeddyurappa helped Kumaraswamy pull down the Congress government led by Dharam Singh. Both leaders then agreed to share power for 20 months each and Kumaraswamy became chief minister.

But when it was Yeddyurappa’s turn to sit on the CM’s chair in October 2007, the JD(S) leader refused to leave it. An angry Yeddyurappa withdrew support. Karnataka came under president’s rule.

The anger didn’t last long. Within a few weeks, the friends-turned enemies had become friends again. On 12 November, the JD(S) announced it was supporting the BJP leader, allowing him to become CM. The warmth faded soon. Kumaraswamy didn’t like the ministries Yeddyurappa had given him, so he withdrew support on 19 November. The BJP leader had been chief minister for only seven days. President’s rule was imposed in Karnataka again.

Jagadambika Pal

Nothing compares, however, with the Jagadambika Pal episode in Uttar Pradeesh on 21 February, 1998. India’s largest state had been in the throes of political upheaval for several months, when BSP leader Mayawati withdrew support to the BJP government of Kalyan Singh.

At this point, several Congressmen such as Jagdambika Pal and Naresh Agarwal – both are in the BJP today – decided to form their own party, the Akhil Bhartiya Loktantrik Congress. Along with 21 MLAs, they offered support to Kalyan Singh. Naresh Agarwal was made energy minister in Kalyan Singh’s government.

Fast forward four months to 21 February, 1998. The Loktantrik Congress withdrew support from Kalyan Singh, but then UP governor Romesh Bhandari, without allowing Kalyan Singh to prove his majority on the floor of the assembly, asked Jagdambika Pal to become chief minister. He took oath at 10.15 pm on the night of 21 February. Naresh Agarwal became his deputy chief minister.

A furious Atal Bihari Vajpayee went on a fast unto death. But within a day, the Allahabad high court ordered that status quo ante must be restored.

The order came in around 5.30 pm on 23 February. Jagdambika Pal, who had occupied the annexe building in the chief minister’s secretariat for 43 hours, was summarily turfed out. The story went that the secretariat staff barely give him a glass of water and some snacks after he lost power.

“Saab, jo Kalyan Singhji ka nashta bacha hai, hum wahi de rahen hein (Sir, we’re serving you Kalyan Singh’s leftover snacks),” a peon reportedly told Jagdambika Pal.

Kalyan Singh got his government back. Vajpayee was persuaded to drink a glass of juice and end his fast.

Meghalaya & Uttarakhand

In Meghalaya, meanwhile, also in February 1998, veteran Congress leader and chief minister S.C. Marak was forced to resign in favour of United Parliamentary Forum leader B.B. Lyngdoh, after he had been CM only for a fortnight from 27 February to 10 March. But of course, only days before this, Marak had served a full term as CM of Meghalaya from February 1993-1998.

Some of today’s bitterness between the Congress and the BJP, via the Supreme Court, owes its origins to the declaration of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand on 27 March, 2016, when Harish Rawat of the Congress was chief minister and nine rebels, led by Vijay Bahuguna, left the party and joined the BJP. The rebels claimed that Rawat’s government had failed to pass an Appropriations Bill on 18 March and had therefore lost majority.

President’s Rule was imposed in the state. Finance minister at the time, Arun Jaitley, said “there can be no better implementation of Article 356.”

But on 21 April, then chief justice of the Uttarakhand high court, K.M. Joseph quashed president’s rule and revived Rawat’s government. Judges Joseph and V.K. Bisht insisted that President’s Rule had been contrary to the law and all the material given in its support “had been found wanting”.

A thrilled Rawat, over the next 24 hours, held two cabinet meetings and took 11 decisions. But his joy lasted only 24 hours. The Supreme Court, led by chief justice of India Dipak Misra quashed the HC decision, arguing that the ‘typed copy’ of the HC decision had not been made public and Harish Rawat could not be allowed to be chief minister.

President’s Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand again on 22 April, 2016. It lasted 19 days, until Rawat became chief minister again – for just over 10 months.

Perhaps the earliest example of a short-tenure chief minister is Satish Prasad Singh of Bihar, who became CM for one week in 1968. But Singh gave up his seat voluntarily, in an effort to resolve faction-fighting in the Sanjukta Socialist Party which had broken away from the Congress.

Janaki vs Jayalalithaa

In 1988, M.G. Ramachandran’s wife, Janaki, was chief minister of Tamil Nadu for a mere 23 days, from 7 – 30 January, just a few days after MGR’s death in late December 1987. Janaki Ramachandran’s bid to become CM was accepted by then Tamil Nadu governor Sunder Lal Khurana. The other claimant was J. Jayalalithaa.

But on the day of the floor test, DMK and AIADMK supporters fought pitched battles on the streets. The speaker announced that the motion of confidence had been won, but prime minister Rajiv Gandhi refused to accept that decision and invoked President’s Rule.

In 1979, in Kerala, Indian Union Muslim League leader C.H. Mohammed Koya served as chief minister for 45 days from 12 October – 1 December. He remains the shortest-serving CM of the state since and its only Muslim one.

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