Opposition parties moved their lawmakers to luxury hotels outside Karnataka, and reportedly confiscated their cellphones, to make sure they were not tempted to switch sides ahead of a vote of confidence in the state assembly.

Police personnel maintain vigil outside the Vidhana Soudha, the legislative house of the southern state of Karnataka during a vote of confidence motion against the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) B S Yeddyurappa's government in Bengaluru, India, May 19, 2018.
Police personnel maintain vigil outside the Vidhana Soudha, the legislative house of the southern state of Karnataka during a vote of confidence motion against the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) B S Yeddyurappa's government in Bengaluru, India, May 19, 2018. (Reuters)

The chief minister of India's southern Karnataka state quit on Saturday after just two days in office, admitting his minority Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not have enough support to form a government.

The move ended a week of mounting acrimony between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP and the opposition Congress party. 

Congress, which had ruled the southern state until an election last week, will now get a new chance to form a government with a regional ally. They have 117 seats in the 225-seat state legislature.

The alliance could galvanise opponents of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of a general election that must be held by May next year.

The BJP deposed Congress as the biggest party in the Karnataka election last Saturday, but its 104 seats was not enough for a majority in the 224-member assembly.

Congress saw its numbers slashed from 122 to 78 seats but it has formed a coalition with the regional Janata Dal (Secular) party which has 37.

The two parties insisted that as they have a majority they should form a government. 

The state governor, a BJP loyalist, chose his own party to try to form an administration, setting off Supreme Court clashes that saw the opposition Congress party approach the country's apex court three times in as many days.

A first hearing in the early hours of Thursday ruled that the BJP's chief minister candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa should be allowed to take an oath of office.

But a day later it said Yeddyurappa must pass a vote of confidence to prove his majority by Saturday.

Congress and its ally have accused the BJP of offering up to $15 million to their members to switch sides in the vote.

While Modi's party has strongly denied the allegation, the Supreme Court ordered a live broadcast of the vote as "the best possible way to ensure transparency in the proceedings."

Congress and Janata Dal moved their lawmakers to luxury hotels outside the state to make sure they were not tempted to switch sides.

Reports said their mobile phones had been confiscated so they could not be contacted by rivals.

The lawmakers were bused back to the state capital Bangalore on Saturday to take part in the vote.

Karnataka, which includes the global IT hub of Bangalore, was the last major state held by Congress.

Losing the state would undermine Congress claims to lead any political alliance against the BJP in a general election next year.

Source: AFP