By Prarthana Mitra
In a dramatic turn of events in Karnataka on Tuesday the electoral results yielded a hung assembly, as none of the contending parties had a clear majority to form a government.
The Congress which lost their stronghold in one of the few remaining states to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) soon arrived at an understanding with former prime minister Deve Gowdas’ regional party Janta Dal Secular (JDS) and agreed that his son HD Kumaraswamy will be the Chief Minister of a coalition government. The situation complicated further as BJP paused its premature celebrations and sent their presumptive chief minister BS Yeddyurappa to meet the governor, seeking time to form the government on the grounds of them being the single largest party.
As both parties announced their decision to stake a claim at the governor’s behest yesterday evening, several narratives pertaining to the possible outcome have emerged. However, what happens next depends entirely on Vajubhai Vala, a former BJP member who was appointed as governor of the state by the centre four years ago.
HD Kumaraswamy: Will the kingmaker be the king?
Before stepping down as Chief Minister, Congress’ Siddaramaiah addressed the media saying, “We thank the people for their verdict and we accept their mandate. Parties cannot, most often, win on its own. Sometimes we need to take support and help from fellow parties. So we have decided to join hands with JDS.” Moreover, Congress’ earlier losses in Meghalaya, Manipur and Goa on similar grounds despite having the single largest party majority gives their claim to a chance to form a government fair standing.
Soon after the outgoing CM handed in his resignation, HD Karunaswamy informed the media, “We have submitted a letter to the Governor so as to form government with the support of Congress. We have both submitted letters so as to seek the permission of the governor.”
Swaminathan Aiyer said in an interview to Economic Times, “Mr Kumaraswamy wants to be number one and not number two and as far as I can see he will go along with anybody who makes him number one.” He added, “The BJP had an unhappy experience with him last time when they got into a coalition.” Kumaraswamy who was granted the chief ministerial seat for 20 months in February 2006, provided he relinquished his claim after that period, refused to comply leading to a complete breakdown.
Given this history, the JDS’s decision to form a government with Congress’ support is not surprising. However, the possibility of horsetrading in the next few days makes it difficult to ascertain if JDS’ loyalty will flail, especially if BJP is given the first crack at forming a government on the assembly floor (Vidhan Sabha).
If the governor calls BJP first to try and form the government it will have 21 days to prove it's majority. That is enough time for many deals to be made, unmade and sealed #KarnatakaVerdict
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) May 15, 2018
Yeddyurappa: A formidable obstacle in the way of Cong+JDS coalition
Meanwhile, there was furore at the BJP headquarters in Delhi and Karnataka as they made a lunge to consolidate the power it won by public mandate. BJP’s Yeddyurappa was granted the first meeting with the governor on Tuesday after a JD(S) delegation was denied entry.
The 75-year-old strongman of the BJP was convinced on Monday that the party would win a clear majority. He cancelled his trip to Delhi after BJP failed to cross the magic mark of 112. Shortly after his meeting with the governor, Yeddyurappa announced, ”We will prove our majority on the floor of the house.”
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a huge win for his party today, BJP’s surge southward remains unabated. This election is seen as a primer for the national election next year. With the Congress government of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah voted out in Karnataka, the party now runs just three states in the entire country while the BJP governs 21 of 29. A desperate Congress made an open and unconditional offer for a post-poll alliance which was made possible by Ghulam Nabi Azad, in an effort to forge a broader front against BJP, although the ball is currently in the governor’s court.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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