CM Siddaramaiah loses in one seat, 16 of his ministers defeated.
Bengaluru: At the end of the counting of votes on Wednesday, Karnataka stared at a phase of political uncertainty with the May 12 Assembly polls throwing up a hung verdict, as none of the major political parties — BJP, Congress or JD(S) — was able to secure the magic number of 113 required to form a government, though the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats.
Nevertheless, a BJP delegation, led by its chief ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa, met governor Vajubhai Vala, a former BJP minister from Gujarat, on Tuesday evening, seeking a week to prove they had the numbers even as the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) cobbled together a coalition with former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) staking his claim to form the government with the support of the Congress.
Accompanying the JD(S) leader to Raj Bhavan were chief minister Siddaramaiah — who lost in his native Chamun-deshwari by a massive margin, though he won in Badami — and Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Dr G. Parameshwar, KPCC president, who is tipped to become deputy chief minister if the Congress chooses to be in government rather than support it from the outside as was being speculated.
Past animosities and the bitterness of the poll campaign were forgotten as the Congress — which had to be content with 78 seats compared to the 122 it had in the previous Assembly — and the JD(S) finalised formalities for government formation, a process which was initiated after polling day in Singapore where Mr Kumaraswamy met some Congress emissaries. Sources said the Congress has deliberately left the CM post to the JD(S) as it feels the mandate is not for the ruling party with as many as 16 ministers in the Siddaramaiah government biting the dust.
The CM himself managed to barely scrape through in Badami by 1,696 votes, the second seat he fought from, but the massive blow to the Congress’ prospects in central and north Karnataka proved that the Lingayat gamble of offering the dominant community in Karnataka minority religion status had not worked at all. All eyes are now on governor Vajubhai Vala amid conflicting reports of horse-trading, with some reports suggesting that five Lingayat MLAs from the Congress are already missing. The BJP needs eight more MLAs to reach the 112 mark in the 222-seat Assembly, with polls yet to be held in two seats. Meanwhile, the JD(S) has reportedly whisked away its MLAs to a resort to make sure they are not poached upon by the BJP in its effort to scramble together a majority.
While the Congress and the JD(S) together have a comfortable majority — 116, three more than the halfway mark — it remains to be seen how the BJP, despite being the largest party, will get its required numbers with only two Independents winning the polls. “Wait and watch” was all that a top BJP source would say when asked how the party was planning to get the numbers. Any party or coalition staking claim to form the government will also have to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly, probably in a couple of weeks.
In fact, Karnataka has faced a similar situation in the past. In 2004, the Congress and JD(S) formed a coalition government led by late Dharam Singh after no party could secure a majority though the BJP emerged as the single largest party. That government lasted for two years and was toppled by Mr Kumaraswamy, who led a JD(S)-BJP coalition government with the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa as his deputy. The 20-20 month power-sharing arrangement did not last long either, with H.D. Kumaraswamy refusing to give up power to the BJP, which led to the collapse of the coalition in 2007.