No one seems to have really won the Karnataka elections – going by the wrangling for power that was underway in Bengaluru well into the wee hours of Wednesday.
The BJP undoubtedly won the largest number of seats, coming tantalisingly close to the half-way mark of 112, but was stunned by a lightning strike that came in the form of a post-poll alliance among the Congress, the Gowdas (JDS) and independent MLAs – all joining ranks to stop the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut from invading the south.
Whose government Karnataka gets will, therefore, be decided by governor Vajubhai Vala and not the voters of the state. Assembly election results threw up a mandate that resembled a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, with a clear majority eluding the BJP which emerged as the single-largest party and the Congress, rejected by the voters, propping up HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) to emerge as the possible king from being considered kingmaker before the polls.
The biggest takeaway from the Karnataka polls after months of campaigning, posturing and promising is the Congress’s burning need to keep the saffron party out of power in the southern state. The Congress moved swiftly to tie up with old rival JD(S) to stake claim to form the government.
All eyes are now on the governor who will have to decide whether to call the single-largest party the BJP led by BS Yeddyurappa, or pick the Congress-backed JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy to form the government based on the combined strength of 116 MLAs on the 222 seats that went to polls. Election to two seats was countermanded.
Tuesday afternoon saw the BJP celebrating on the streets as the trends gave an impression that the saffron party was set to make a comeback in the southern state.
But by 4pm the drums at the state BJP headquarters had fallen silent as, directed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi the Congress opened channels with the JD(S). Congress leaders spoke to the father-son JD(S) duo and made an offer the party with 38 MLAs couldn’t say no to. The JD(S) sprang to accept the offer and CMship, forgetting how Siddaramiah had dumped the JD(S) to join the Congress to be chief minister. The JD(S) also cat out of mind the defections from the party Siddaramiah had managed and how Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the start of the campaign called the party the B team of the BJP.
The moment the deal with the CM post topping was worked out, the Congress declared that it would meet the governor to stake claim. The BJP, stung by the turn of events, decided not to allow Kumaraswamy to become CM and the Congress have its way without a contest.
By evening, armadas of SUVs with dark tinted glasses were driving inside the Raj Bhavan as both sides rushed to meet the governor.
“We had to be ready for any eventuality. So when there was a window, we chipped in,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told India Today TV.
The Congress manoeuvre indicates the realisation in the party that the outcome of the polls and the post-election moves could make Karnataka a bellwether for the 2019 polls.
The lightning-fast political moves by the Congress in tying up with the JD(S) indicated that a post-poll alliance was in the works for some time and that the Congress had learnt some hard lessons from the setbacks in Goa and Manipur where the party had the numbers but the BJP stitched larger post-poll alliances.
The high points of the day were perhaps the moments when Kumaraswamy and Siddaramiah drove inside one after another while BJP leaders including Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar were at the Raj Bhavan gates, addressing the media. The duo soon emerged together and made it clear that their coming together was in the hunt for power in the state.