The battlefield for forming the next government in Karnataka is changing at a rapid pace. Every day is witness to new developments that are making the contest more complex.
In the latest, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular)-JD(S)-combine has decided to move their MLAs out of Karnataka to a safer location, fearing that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may succeed in breaking their ranks.
However, Governor Vejubhai Vala decided to invite the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to form the next government and gave him 15 days to prove a majority on the floor of the House.
Though the Congress-JD(S) alliance has challenged the governor’s decision in the Supreme Court, the top leadership of the two parties is worried that the BJP may be successful in luring away some of their MLAs. The 15 days given to prove the majority, the Congress-JD(S) believes, gives BJP ample time to break its ranks.
Despite claims of having their MLAs together, the alliance partners have sound reasons to worry.
Days after the Karnataka assembly results were declared, there are some indications of fissures among their MLAs. There are reports that suggest that not all Congress MLAs are happy with the alliance with JD(S) as this may result in losing some political space. Besides this, the BJP is also trying to exert its influence over the Lingayat MLAs in Congress by talking to the religious leaders of the community.
Reports of three Congress MLAs missing from the camp add to the party’s worries.
Outgoing speaker of the Karnataka assembly, KB Koliwad says there are more such MLAs who are unhappy with the alliance.
Speaking to India Today, the five-time MLA said, “All MLAs are not happy with the Congress-JD(S) alliance because they had fought against each other. They will have to cede some political ground to the JD(S) if the alliance forms the next government.”
He claimed that this “unrest” also led to sharp divisions between the newly-elected MLAs during their recent meeting. Koliwad attributed this to be the reason why the party could not elect a legislature party leader for the Congress.
Mounting the blame on former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for the heavy loss suffered by the Congress in the election, Koliwad accused him of high-handedness.
Sixteen cabinet ministers of Congress lost their seats this time. Siddaramaiah too lost one of the two seats he contested from.
“Siddaramaiah has destroyed the party. He became a dictator and is solely responsible for the party losing over 40 seats. He prevailed upon the high command and exploited its weak position after the party lost elections in state after state,” Koliwad said.
He added that he not the only one who feels this and claimed that there are many Congress MLAs who share these feelings. “They are silent due to the pressure from the high command,” he claimed.
It is these disgruntled MLAs that the BJP is reportedly trying to cash in on. The saffron party is learnt to have approached many of them.
On Thursday, Congress-JD(S) CM hopeful HD Kumaraswamy alleged that the BJP is trying to break the alliance and is offering Rs 100 crore to each MLA.
Sources say the BJP is also trying to influence the Congress Lingayat MLAs by raking up the issue that if the alliance materialises, they will have to see a Vokkaliga leader as the chief minister. The Lingayata and the Vokkaliga communities do not share warm relations.
To instill confidence among its MLAs and the JD9S), the Congress top leadership is trying to project a brave face, here is an effort to build a counter narrative that it is the BJP who is losing ground. Congress President Rahul Gandhi also spoke to JD(S) chief HD Dewe Gowde and discussed the strategy forward.
The Congress is also trying to garner support from other Opposition parties to build a pan-India opposition to the Karnataka governor’s decision. On Thursday, Congress national General Secretary Ashok Gehlot wrote to all state units to organize protest in their respective capitals against the governor’s decision.
In Goa, the party said it will approach the governor and stake claim to form the government because it is the single-largest party I the state. The same has been announced by former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav.
The Congress, which is the single-largest party in Manipur and Meghalaya, is likely to do the same in the two states as well.