The Congress, with 22 berths and Deputy Chief Ministership and Speakership, should have no reason to complain.
In forming a coalition Government with the Janata Dal (S), the Congress has frustrated the BJP from coming to power to Karnataka despite emerging as the single largest party with a tally of 104 in a House of 222.
Maybe, with the Siddaramiah government having been voted out, the Congress should have morally sat in the opposition as Rajiv Gandhi did 1989 when the party lost its three-fourths majority in the Lok Sabha and yet emerged as the single largest party. Rajiv Gandhi saw it as a verdict against the Congress. But that was a different era. The BJP, by aggressively pursuing the ‘Congress mukht Bharat’, robbed it of its mandate in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Goa and changed the rules of the game.
Now the Congress has shown the BJP it is a game two can play, by arguing that constitutional norms cannot vary from state to state. Another brilliant move was moving the Supreme Court in the small hours. The court, while allowing the BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to face the floor test, at the same time ensured that it was televised to prevent horse-trading. Realising that his game was up, Yeddyurappa, on the advice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, quit before the vote.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party predicted that after the Karnataka elections, Congress would be reduced to PPP — Punjab, Puducherry and Parivar. The Congress, by halting Modi’s Juggernaut in Karnataka, has used the alliance as a launching pad to forge a national level anti-BJP front for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. That was the main reason why the Congress readily gave up Chief Ministership to Kumaraswamy. And that is the glue which will hold the two parties together.
The victory has come at a time when Mamata Banerjee and Chandrasekhar Rao have been working on a regional front in which whoever is strong in a particular State will lead it just as the DMK led the UPA alliance in Tamil Nadu. The Congress has shown it is ready to play a supporting role in such a front.
The participation of top regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, Chandrasekhar Rao and Arvind Kejriwal , besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and leaders of the CPM and the CPI in the swearing-in of Kumaraswamy is an indication of the shape of things to come.
The Congress, with 22 berths and Deputy Chief Ministership and Speakership, should have no reason to complain. On returning to New Delhi after the swearing-in, Sonia told a meeting of Congress legislators that they should ensure that this government lasted till the next Lok Sabha elections as that was the only way to defeat the BJP in 2019.
Sonia is believed to have told the legislators that federal agencies and the Enforcement Directorate would be unleashed against the leaders of the Karnataka Government to destabilise it. “But we should face it”, she has said.
That the BJP is sore is evident in the reaction of its leaders calling the Congress-JD(S) alliance as unholy as if the BJP-PDP Government in Jammu and Kashmir is principled. If the Karnataka drama should have a sobering effect on Modi and Amit Shah as they brace for the next round of State elections and the Lok Sabha polls, the lesson for them is winning at any cost is not an easy option
Governor Vajubhai Lala who played a very dubious role to instal a BJP Government has now ushered in the Congress-JD(S) Government headed by HD Kumaraswamy. The apex court will evolve norms over the next month on the role of the Governor, whose discretion is not unfettered in the event of a fractured mandate.
There are already well-established norms set by the Sarkaria Commission, reinforced in the Rameshar Prasad case of 2006. Under the order of preference in the event of a fractured mandate, a pre-election alliance should be invited first. Secondly the single largest party should be called, provided it is able to show it has the support of independents and others. The third option is inviting a post-election alliance.
In Karnataka, the Governor gave the first chance to the BJP though Yeddyurappa did not give proof of support. The Congress and the JD (S), by zealously guarding their MLAs, defeated its plan to poach them. And the two together accounted for 117 MLAs, ahead of the half way mark of 112.
(The writer is a senior journalist)