Karnataka results today, many aspirants for CM.
Bengaluru: Hours before the crucial counting of votes of the May 12 Assembly polls, Karnataka’s top political leaders made no secret of their ambition for power, with the BJP’s CM candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa reportedly even booking the Kanteerava Stadium here for his swearing-in ceremony.
The open jockeying for the top post came amid persistent reports of a backroom deal being worked out by the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad arriving in the city to oversee preparations for government formation, if the Congress makes it.
The ruling Congress has decided to seize the initiative after its bitter experience in Goa where it had to give up power to the BJP despite emerging as the single largest party, after the saffron party managed to strike a deal with smaller outfits.
The Congress does not want this scenario to be repeated in Karnataka, with sources saying that emissaries have already met JD(S) state chief H.D. Kumaraswamy in Singapore to work out the details for a pact.
According to top sources, Mr Kumaraswamy, who had left on an “impromptu” two-day vacation/medical tour to Singapore, was reportedly followed by JD(S) MP Kupendra Reddy and a real estate baron to firm up a discreet “Plan B” of the two parties to form a coalition government.
Mr Kupendra Reddy and the realtor are close to Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda.
With Mr Azad in Bengaluru, the Congress and JD(S) may be able to swiftly finalise a power-sharing arrangement in case of a fractured verdict, which many of the exit polls have already predicted. A hung Assembly will see incumbent CM Siddaramaiah, whose ties with the JD(S) have not been too good, making way for another leader — possibly Mallikarjun Kharge, even as other chief ministerial aspirants like KPCC president G. Parameshwar have announced their availability while other ministers D.K. Shivakumar, Ramalinga Reddy or R.V. Deshpande have also thrown their hat into the ring.
Speculation is rife that under this deal, Mr Kumarawamy could come in as the deputy, and be unable to walk out of the coalition government halfway as he did when he partnered with BJP-led B.S. Yeddyurappa’s government as he cannot risk antagonising dalits.
The alternative being worked out if the JD(S) does a repeat of 1994 and wins big, but is unable to reach the halfway mark, is where the Congress will extend support to the JD(S) and KPCC president G. Parameshwar becomes deputy chief minister with Mr Kumaraswamy taking over the top post.
Sources said the hush-hush JD(S)-Congress deal had been worked out by JD(S) spokesperson Danish Ali and Congress bigwigs Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad weeks before campaigning had even started.
Sources in the BJP said permutations and combinations are being worked in their party too. B.S. Yeddyurappa, the state president, would be the automatic choice if the BJP got a majority. However, if the party decides to approach the JD(S) in case of a hung verdict, the former CM may have to make way for someone like Ballari BJP MP B. Sriramulu as the JD(S) leaders may not be too keen on working with Mr Yeddyurappa after the failed coalition experiment in 2006-07.
In a related development, senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot met CM Siddaramaiah on Monday evening. The CM reportedly told them he had no objection to the proposal for a dalit CM. However, the final choice should be left to the Congress legislature party and the choice should not be forced upon them, he added.