The Congress has agreed to offer ‘unconditional’ support to the JD(S) to form a government.
Karnataka’s voters have given a fractured mandate. They didn’t endorse the Congress’ return to power although chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress president Rahul Gandhi ran an impressive campaign against its principal challengers, the BJP, whose star in the poll battle was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In rejecting Mr Siddaramaiah’s comeback bid, the state has stuck to its reputation of not electing a party in two consecutive elections, a trend which has held since 1978 when then Congress CM Devraj Urs won endorsement for a second consecutive term.
Nevertheless, the BJP also failed to wrest power from the Congress, though it appears to have emerged as the largest single party, subject to official confirmation. Although the BJP won many more seats than the Congress, in percentage terms the latter polled more votes than its main rival.
Mr Modi’s high-voltage campaign and the BJP-RSS’ much-vaunted “last-mile connectivity” with the voter could not get the saffron party to the magic mark of 113 seats in the Assembly. Marking a politically tense day, the Election Commission had been unable to declare the final result till late in the evening. On a large number of seats, the gap between the principal rivals was fewer than 800 votes, and on a few less than 100, pointing to the keenness of the contest.
The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), the regional party led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, have meanwhile struck a post-poll alliance and pressed their claim with the governor to form a government, seeking an opportunity to prove their majority on the floor of the House. The Congress has agreed to offer “unconditional” support to the JD(S) to form a government. If this move succeeds, Mr Deve Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy, a former state chief minister, expects to be the next CM.
The BJP’s CM-hopeful B.S. Yeddyurappa also met the governor, urging to be called first to prove his majority by virtue of being the party with the most MLAs in a hung Assembly. Unless elected MLAs break away from the Congress and/or the JD(S), the BJP’s move cannot succeed. Horse-trading may be safely expected if Mr Yeddyurappa is given the first opportunity to take a shot at government formation.
In the past year, the Congress emerged as the first party after elections in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, but the governors invited the BJP in all cases, arguing that the parties ranged against the Congress were a majority. A similar situation prevails in Karnataka now, with the role of the Congress and the BJP reversed. Will the Karnataka governor follow these precedents or not is the question.
The Congress’ decision to support the JD(S) also appears motivated by the need to draw in non-BJP parties together with the next Lok Sabha election in mind. BSP leader Mayawati and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee have also endorsed the coming together of the Congress and the JD(S).