Congress's K R Ramesh Kumar was Friday unanimously elected the Speaker of the Karnataka assembly, after Bharatiya Janata Party candidate S Suresh Kumar pulled out of the race, in a major victory for the Janata Dal-Secular-Congress coalition before Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy faced the floor test.
Shortly before the start of the proceedings, Suresh Kumar said he was withdrawing his nomination following a direction from the BJP leadership.
"On the directions of our party, I had filed the nomination for the post of Speaker of Karnataka Legislative Assembly. Now, after discussion in the party, it is felt that the Speaker has to be elected unanimously following the parliamentary traditions. I'm withdrawing my nomination," Suresh Kumar tweeted.
Suresh Kumar, a 5th term MLA from Bengaluru, had filed his papers on Thursday, in an apparent indication by the BJP that it wanted to give the JD-S-Congress coalition a run for its money in the race for speakership before Kumaraswamy faced the floor test.
As the House met and pro tem speaker K G Bopaiah took up the matter, BJP's Sunil Kumar stood up and said he was not moving the motion proposing Suresh Kumar for the Speaker's post.
Suresh Kumar then said, "I accept it."
Ramesh Kumar's name was then proposed by former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and seconded by Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the House. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa escorted Ramesh Kumar to the chair.
The move by the BJP, which is the single largest party with 104 MLAs, apparently came because it failed to muster support of additional lawmakers required for the victory of its candidate.
The Congress-JD-S combine has claimed support of 117 members.
The Congress has 78 MLAs, Kumaraswamy's JD(S) 36, and Bahujan Samaj Party 1. The alliance has also claimed support of the lone Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party MLA and an independent.
Kumaraswamy had won from two seats.
The Congress and JD-S MLAs who have been confined to a hotel and a resort fearing poaching attempts by the BJP were brought in buses to the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of state legislature.
After taking oath, Kumaraswamy had voiced confidence about winning the floor test, but said he had an apprehension that the BJP would try to repeat 'Operation Kamala' to bring down his government.
The term 'Operation Kamala' or 'Operation Lotus' was coined in 2008, when Yeddyurappa took over as the chief minister.
The party was short of three MLAs for a simple majority.
As part of 'Operation Kamala', named after the BJP's election symbol lotus, some Congress and JD(S) MLAs were persuaded to join the saffron party, relinquish their membership of the Assembly, and re-contest elections.
Their victory made up for the shortfall in numbers.
Senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar, who was widely credited with having kept the flock of party MLAs together amid claims of attempted poaching by the BJP, is reportedly not happy after being ignored for the deputy chief minister's post that went to the party's Dalit face G Parameshwara.
"Is it the same for those who win one seat and those who win the state? I have not come to politics to take sanyas. I will play chess not football," Shivakumar had said.
In an indication of the tough challenges ahead for Kumaraswamy, Parameshwara said on Thursday that the coalition was yet to discuss the tenure of the JD(S) leader as the chief minister.
"We have not yet discussed those modalities," he had said in response to a question about whether Kumaraswamy will be the chief minister for full five years.