BANGALORE: When pre-poll and post-poll surveys predicted a hung assembly in the southern state of Karnataka, everybody expected the Janata Dal (S) to the play the role of a king maker.
However, JD (S) chief H D Kumaraswamy had claimed he will become the king himself in the state. This is exactly what is likely to happen with none of the three major players getting enough numbers of seats to form a government on their own at the end of the counting of the votes of the election held on May 12.
The Congress, which came second with 78 seats, has offered the mantle on a platter to the JD (S), which has won 38 seats. The BJP, which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, was caught off the guard by the surprise move by the Congress.
It was a sweet revenge for the Congress since the BJP had snatched the power from the party in Goa and Manipur despite having the largest number of seats. The party lost the two states due to poor planning. While the Congress took time to choose its leaders, the BJP moved swiftly and mustered the majority to form the government.
Learning from its mistakes, the Congress moved swiftly as soon as the trend became available and stitched a post poll alliance with the JD (S). According to the understanding, Kumaraswamy will lead the government with 14 ministers from his party, the Congress will get 20 ministers, including the post of deputy chief minister.
Senior leaders from the two parties have met Governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala and staked the claim to form the government. However, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yedyurappa had a meeting with the Governor before Kumaraswamy and has reportedly sought a week’s time to prove his majority.
All eyes are now on the governor. Vajubhai has not given any commitment to either party. The JD (S) leader said that the Governor had told them that he will take a decision after all results were formally declared by the election commission.
He said that he took the claim to the Governor after he had had detailed discussion with senior leaders of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). He pointed out that the AICC leadership had offered full support to his party to form the government.
Outgoing chief minister Siddramaiah, Karnataka DCC president G Parameshwara and Energy Minister D K Sivakumar were also part of the delegation led by Kumaraswamy. They have appraised the governor with their decision to lend full support to the JD (S) to form the government.
Talking to reporters after meeting the Governor, Siddaramaiah said that the BJP had usurped power last time by running operation lotus. The effort will not succeed this time. “We have the support of 118 MLAs including the two independents. Our claim has the constitutional merit. Therefore, we must be allowed to form the government,” he added.
The Governor has not revealed his mind so far. As per the usual practice, in normal circumstances the governor calls the leader of the single-largest party or pre-poll alliance to form the government, but in the present case there was no alliance between the JD (S) and the Congress before the polls.
In the event of a hung assembly, the governor usually asks him to prove the majority on the floor of the House. Since the Congress and JD(S) did not have a pre-poll alliance, it is up to the governor to decide whether to invite the alliance or the single largest party to form the government.
Constitutional expert and advocate Harish Salve said nobody could blame the governor if he decides to invite the leader of the single largest party to form the government. He told the Times Now that the Constitution lays down that the single largest party that is closest to the power should be invited to form the government.
The precedent, however, was not followed in Manipur and Goa. Even though the Congress emerged as the single largest party in both the states, governor invited the post-poll alliance involving BJP to form the government there. The Congress and the JD (S) hope that the governor will give them the first chance.
The BJP has questioned the moral authority of the Congress Party to support a government. Party leaders said that the mandate in the 2018 election was against the Congress. They wondered how the party could back the JD (S) government when it had fought the party at the hustings.
Yedyurappa said that the Congress chief ministerial candidate was defeated by a JD (S) candidate at Chamundeshwari. He claimed that the mandate of the people in Karantaka was in favour of the BJP and added that he was ready to prove the majority if he is given seven days’ time.
If the coalition is allowed to form the government this time, this will be the second Congress-JD (S) coalition government in Karnataka. The Congress had run the government with the support of the JD (S) in 2004. Curiously, the BJP had then also emerged as the single largest party with 87 seats.
The 2004 Congress-JD (S) government was the first coalition government in Karnataka’s history. The experiment lasted only two years. In 2006. the JD (S) dislodged the government and joined hands with the BJP to form a new government under Kumaraswamy.
Kumaraswamy was sworn-in as the 25th chief minister of Karnataka with the understand that he will hand over the mantle to Yeddyurappa after one-and-half-years. However, he refused to give the chief ministership to the BJP leading to the fall of the government.
Political observers do not expect a new coalition government to last long as there are sharp differences among the leaders in both the parties. A section of the JD (S) MLAs is said to be unhappy with the alliances. There are rumours that a group of nine MLAs was gearing up to switch side to the BJP camp.
The JD (S) will call the parliamentary board meeting soon to decide the strategy to hold the MLAs together. Political observers believe that it will be difficult for the JD (S) to hold the MLAs together if the Governor invites Yedyurappa first to form the government.
Therefore, a final picture in Karanataka is still not clear.