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Posted at: May 16, 2018, 1:44 AM; last updated: May 16, 2018, 10:56 AM (IST)KARNATAKA

BJP wins big but falls short, Cong backs JD(S), both stake claim

Ramakrishna Upadhya

On a day of dramatic developments in Karnataka poll results , the BJP fell tantalisingly short of a majority, paving the way for the JD(S) and the Congress to stake claim to form a coalition government. 

The BJP won 104 seats, eight short of a majority (elections were held for 222 seats and deferred in two). The ruling Congress was reduced to 78 seats.  But with Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) winning 38 seats, the party sprang to life, extending “unconditional” support to Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister.

EDIT: Potboiler in Karnataka

It all happened in a matter of minutes as Sonia Gandhi telephoned Deve Gowda and also asked her emissary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in Bengaluru, to call on the JD(S) leader and his son. Having been beaten in the numbers game by the BJP in Goa and Meghalaya, the Congress acted swiftly, asking outgoing CM Siddaramaiah to announce the party’s support to Kumaraswamy and sending a formal letter of support to the JD(S).

With its lead slipping to 104 at the end of the day, the BJP was stunned at the turn of events. Party president Amit Shah decided to send senior leaders Prakash Javadekar and Ram Madhav to Bengaluru and advised local leaders BS Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar to formally meet Governor Vajubhai Vala. Coming out of Raj Bhawan, Yeddyurappa said he had staked claim to forming a government as leader of the largest party and sought a week’s time to prove majority on the floor of the House.

Soon after, Kumaraswamy, accompanied by Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and Parameshwara, too called on the Governor, saying they had the requisite numbers to form the next government. The JD(S) and the Congress fear the BJP may try to lure some of their MLAs to abstain from voting, if Yeddyurappa is allowed to form a government and seek a vote of confidence.

Governor Vala has not revealed his mind and may take a day or two to decide on the next course of action. In fact, there are precedents for both the largest party and a grouping claiming a majority being invited to form a government. Whatever the Governor may decide, the Congress seems to have lost the moral authority — losing the elections with  Siddaramaiah facing defeat in Chamundeshwari and barely scraping through in Badami.

More than 12 ministers, including Kagodu Thimmappa, HC Mahadevappa, H Anjaneya, TB Jayachandra, Umashri, Vinay Kulakarni, Abhiyachandra and Ramanath Rai as well as Speaker KB Koliwad, lost. 

In the BJP camp, Yeddyurappa from Shikarapur, Eshwarappa from Shimoga, R Ashok from Padmanabhanagar, Suresh Kumar from Rajajinagar and Kumar Bangarappa from Sugara were among the victors. But there was little cheer because of the uncertainities ahead.

Over the next few days, one may see resort politics, which was the order of the day when the last coalition government ruled Karnataka between 2004 and 2008, as the parties try to keep their flock together. If the JD(S) manages to get the chief ministership, it will be an unexpected bonus for the party that was only hoping to become a junior partner in a government in case of a hung Assembly.

It is said the Congress and the JD(S) have agreed to have 20 and 14 ministers from their respective parties (the maximum limit being 34) with the post of Deputy CM and that of Speaker going to the Congress.

The people of Karnataka, who came out in large numbers to vote (a record 72.65%), have reasons to be disappointed, staring as they are at a shaky coalition government which may not last long. If it comes about, it will be the third coalition experiment in 11 years, and the people do not have fond memories of those days when governance took a back seat. 

Though Siddaramaiah’s government has been rejected, he will be remembered for giving a stable administration for five years.

(The writer is a noted journalist)


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