The results of the Karnataka Assembly elections on Tuesday brought along a sequence of dramatic turnarounds. As predicted by pollsters, the bitterly-fought triangular contest threw up a fractured mandate, forcing the BJP and a hurriedly-stitched alliance of the Congress and the JD(S) to stake claim to form a government.
The BJP emerged as the single largest party today but fell 8 seats short of a majority in Karnataka where the Congress dramatically backed third-placed rival JD(S) for a post-poll alliance to keep the saffron party out of power.
After it became that it was in no condition to retain office, the Congress with 78 seats offered unconditional support to JD(S) which won 38 seats. Their totally of 116 seats is ahead of the simple majority of 112. Both JD-S leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah of Congress then met the Governor and staked the claim to form a government.
That happened after BJP leader and its Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa met and urged the Governor to let him prove his majority support in the Karnataka Assembly. He was accompanied by Union Minister Ananth Kumar.
The party exuded confidence, with PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah claiming that it had won big and would not let down Karnataka's voters.
Also Read: Karnataka Assembly Election Results LIVE Updates: JD(S) to shift its 38 MLAs to Kochi resort to fend off 'poaching attempts', say sources
Ball now in Governor’s court
All eyes are now on Governor Vajubhai Vala – a former RSS functionary and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's erstwhile cabinet colleague in Gujarat – who will have to decide whether to call BJP to try to form the government or go with the JD(S)-Congress combine, which together have a clear majority in the 224-member Assembly.
The BJP and JD(S) are expected to return to the Governor today to stake claim to form the next government in the state.
BJP looks into options to prove majority
In the case of a hung Assembly, the leader is asked to prove the majority on the floor of the House within a stipulated time.
BJP, in its bid to form a government in the southern state, dispatched central ministers Prakash Javadekar, Dharmendra Pradhan and J P Nadda to Bengaluru to consult CM-nominee B S Yeddyurappa and other state leaders on the possible options.
The three will attend a meeting of the newly-elected BJP MLAs in Bengaluru on Wednesday as the party's central observers.
The BJP might look into the option of getting MLAs from the rival camp to shift their loyalty or absent themselves, while it proves majority on the floor. This would bring down the mark required for a simple majority.
Also Read: Karnataka Election Results 2018: All eyes on Governor as Congress-JD(S) combine joins race to form govt after BJP falls short of majority
The saffron party may also look for a possible discontent with the Congress and JD(S) over the likely elevation of H D Kumaraswamy as the proposed chief minister of the JD(S)-Congress combine. If it does so, it will be a repeat of the “Operation Lotus” that the party undertook to gain numbers after forming a government in 2008.
According to India TV sources, around 15 Lingayat MLAs from both the Congress and JD(S) are angry over Kumaraswamy being offered the post of CM of the alliance, and have threatened to quit the parties.
In a roller-coaster ride for BJP, it initially appeared that the party was set to return to power after a five-year hiatus with a resounding majority. But at the end of counting of votes it came tantalisingly close to 113 needed to form the government.
Congress learns from previous mistakes
Also Read: Karnataka Election Results 2018: G Parmeshwar to be deputy CM of JD(S)-Congress combine, say sources
The swift political maneuvering by Congress in reaching out to JD(S) showed that it had learnt its lesson after the debacle in Manipur and Goa where it failed to form the government despite being the single largest party because of BJP's clever moves.
Unlike in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, where the Congress failed to form its government despite securing the highest seats, it forged a quick post-poll alliance with the JD-S in Karnataka and staked claim to government formation.
Sensing a clear opportunity, the Congress leadership took a quick call to let go of the post of chief minister, which it offered to JD-S that lapped it up immediately.
According to sources, as soon as the numbers went against the Congress, Sonia Gandhi held telephonic conversation with former prime minister and JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda, offering unconditional support to his party along with chief ministerial post to his son H D Kumaraswamy.
Why victory in Karnataka is important for both BJP and Congress
A victory in Karnataka would help boost the sagging morale of the Congress, which is on a downhill journey, losing state after state since Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre. Losing Karnataka will drastically weaken its claim for the leadership of a broader anti-BJP alliance that is being talked about.
It will also boost the Grand Old Party’s morale for the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram in November-December, and for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It would also ensure that the party would not be reduced to ruling only one big state, that of Punjab, in the entire country.
A victory for the BJP, on the other hand, will reflect the enduring charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his capacity to power his party to victory across the country, clearing demographic and topographical obstacles. It would also further galvanise the BJP cadre before the Assembly elections in party-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh later this year.
A victory for the saffron party will also drastically weaken Congress’ claim for the leadership of a broader anti-BJP alliance that is being talked about. The defeat will make it tough for the Grand Old Party to bargain with other regional parties in the run-up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.