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May 16, 2018 08:06 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Podcast | Karnataka Election Results 2018: How the latest events are unfolding at Raj Bhavan

Here are the latest developments in the Karnataka Election Results right here on Moneycontrol.

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It is business as usual in the political theatre that is India: potential horse-trading; MLAs gone AWOL; politicians probably cooped up in resorts sipping pineapple juice from glasses with little umbrellas in them; middlemen losing their minds but also secretly enjoying feeling important for the moment; and old men, after early morning walks, doing filter coffee rounds outside Lal Bagh, speculating more passionately than any panellist on primetime television – India is ripe for political comedy, and one such instalment is what is underway in Karnataka.

I believe it was Jane Austen who once said “It is a truth universally acknowledged that an MLA in possession of a seat must be in want of a bigger piece of the political pie.”

Hence, the accusations of horse-trading. Why sit in opposition when you could just as easily sit across from it? One does not know if the Karunaadu came first or the Naataka did, but one can be certain that the two together, like Dosa and Chutney, are a time-honoured double act the likes of which I wish I could say were rare in Indian politics. But you know as well as I do that it is not. And so here we are, once again, with Yeddyurappa and HD Kumaraswamy both answering the question of what they want to be – Yes, Chief Minister.

Our Story of the Day is the dramedy that is unfolding barely metres away from where I am – who needs television or parks or recreation when you could see it all live with HD. Yeddy or not, This Is Us watching the political development, arrested. Scandals, fools and horses, political animals, all feature on the latest sensation that is sweeping the nation – the final frontier on Battlestar Karnataka.

My name is Rakesh, and these are the latest developments in the Karnataka Election Results right here on Moneycontrol.

This is where we had left off as of last night, the 15th of May:

  1. Following a late night meeting with JD(S) President HD Kumaraswamy at a hotel in Bengaluru, Congress leader Siddaramaiah said that the two parties would form the government.

  2. HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy met with Siddaramaiah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, DK Shivakumar and Mallikarjun Kharge, from the Congress side.

  3. News18 reported that BJP approaches 6 ‘unhappy’ Lingayat MLAs from Congress.

  4. Congress likely to move the MLAs to a resort near Bengaluru after the CLP meeting on Wednesday, reported News18citing sources.

  5. BJP looking at offering deputy CM to another leader from JD(S), who can come with some MLAs, reports News18citing sources.

Since this morning, the political uncertainty has certainly spooked the markets. Both the BSE Sensex and the Nifty closed in the red.

Red hot is also the political drama that is underway. Let’s break it down.

THE RESULTS:

As is the norm in Karnataka, the ruling party did not win its way back into the Vidhana Soudha. So, exit Siddaramaiah, who incidentally lost in one of the constituencies (Chamundeshwari) he contested from, and barely scraped through in the other (Badami).

72.13% of Karnataka's voters exercised their franchise in the May 12 assembly polls. This was the highest voter percentage since the 1952 assembly polls. Karnataka has an electorate of over 4.97 crore. As the Election Commission announced the final tally of seats after midnight, the BJP settled to 104 and the Congress at 78. The JD(S) secured 37 seats while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party got one seat each. One seat went to an independent candidate. Elections were held in 222 out of the 224 seats – two seats remain.

More than a dozen ministers, including Kagodu Thimmappa, HC Mahadevappa, H Anjaneya, TB Jayachandra, Umashri, Vinay Kulakarni, Abhiyachandra, Ramanath Rai and Assembly Speaker KB Koliwad were among those defeated.

In the BJP camp, Yeddyurappa from Shikarapur, Eshwarappa from Shimoga, R Ashok from Padmanabhanagar, Suresh Kumar from Rajajinagar and Kumar Bangarappa from Sugara wer among those victorious, but there was not much joy in the party office because of the uncertainties.

In terms of vote share, the Congress came in first with 38.0%. The BJP, which has 26 more seats than the Congress got a smaller vote share at 36.2% votes. HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S) was the party of choice for 18.3% of those who voted. And Mayawati's BSP, which contested on 18 seats in alliance with the JD(S), secured 0.3% of votes as it won one seat.

THE MORNING AFTER:

The results, a bitter pill to swallow for all parties involved – except perhaps JD (S) – the morning after has brought about political manoeuvrings and accusations back and forth. The resolution of this spell of political uncertainty lies in the hands of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala.

Ramakrishna Upadhya, writing for Moneycontrol, goes on to say – “Over the next few days, one may see resort politics, which was the order of the day when the last coalition government ruled Karnataka between 2004 and 2008, as the parties try to keep their flock together and prevent poaching by the other side.” Apparently, resort politics have already begun. As of 4:30 this evening, Sources have told News18 that Congress and JD(S) MLAs are being taken to Eagleton resort in Bengaluru. It has also been reported that Congress and JD(S) MLAs will meet the Governor at 5pm today.

For the JD(S), if they manage to get chief ministership, it will be an unexpected bonus as they were only hoping to become a junior partner of a government in a hung assembly.

It is said that Congress and JD(S) have agreed to have 20 and 14 ministers from their respective parties (the maximum limit being 34) with the post of deputy chief minister and the Speaker going to the Congress.

If the coalition comes to fruition, it will be the third coalition experiment in 11 years and the people do not have fond memories of those days as governance had taken a backseat to intense politicking. We remember only too well what happened between Kumaraswamy and Yeddyurappa last time around. Though Siddaramaiah's government has been rejected, he will at least be remembered for giving a stable administration for five years.

Siddaramaiah on Wednesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of encouraging horse-trading.  Earlier, the Janta Dal (Secular) alleged that BJP is offering its MLAs Rs 1 billion or 100 crore rupees each to abstain from voting during the floor test so that the BJP could prove a majority in the House and form the next government.

"JD(S) MLAs are being offered Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) each. Where is this black money coming from? They are supposedly the servers of poor people and they are offering money today. Where are the income-tax officials?" said H D Kumaraswamy, the chief minister aspirant.

"The JD(S) and Congress have 116 MLAs, when combined (including JD(S)' pre-poll ally BSP)...the BJP is trying to misuse its power and form its government through horsetrading," Kumaraswamy went on to say.

In response to the accusation of horse-trading, Union minister Prakash Javadekar today rubbished JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy's charge that the BJP was offering Rs 100 crore to wean away his party MLAs in its bid to form a government in Karnataka, saying it is "imaginary". "Rs 100 crore, Rs 200 crore figures are imaginary. The BJP is not doing anything. This is the kind of politics the JD(S) and Congress play," he told reporters.

In all the confusion, at least one thing appears to have some degree of certainty – that the next chief minister could be HD Kumaraswamy.  The BJP on Wednesday reached out to the JD(S) and offered H D Kumaraswamy the CM's post, in an attempt to form the next government in the state, sources have told ETnow. BJP is only 9 seats short of the half-way mark, while the JD(S) has 37. A day before, the Congress had offered support to JD(S) and chief ministership to Kumaraswamy. The JD(S), as of now, seems to be sticking with the Congress offer. Business Standard reported that it took a phone call from former Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Janata Dal (Secular) president H D Deve Gowda to stitch the Karnataka alliance. When Kumaraswamy had merely hoped to be kingmaker, it seems apparent that he may eventually make king.

Congress and JD(S) MLA’s are, as I speak, on their way to Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s house. Meanwhile, JD(S) workers have gathered outside Raj Bhavan to protest against the BJP.

Both of the major parties are still confident that the legal and constitutional precedents will play in their favour.  In Goa, Meghalaya, and Manipur elections in 2017, the BJP tied up with smaller parties and Independents under the nose of the Congress, though the Congress was the single largest party, and managed to form a government, grabbing victory from the jaws of defeat in those states. Learning from its past mistakes, the Congress was swift in its action this time around, reaching out to JD(S) at the earliest. Now, the Congress wants to take a leaf out of the BJP playbook and emulate it here in Karnataka. “The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Goa, Meghalaya, and Manipur that a single-largest party does not automatically qualify to form the government,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said in defence of the Congress-JD(S) claim to form a government. The Congress also cited the March 13, 2017, judgement of the Supreme Court in this regard as well as constitutional and legal provisions.

"We expect the Governor to listen to the mandate of the people...However, all options will always remain open to the Congress," party's communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said when asked what would the party do if the Governor calls the BJP to prove majority on the floor of the assembly. As per constitutional and legal provisions, the Governor has no option but to invite the coalition," he said.

If the step succeeds, it would prove to be a huge morale booster to the Congress party ahead of the state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the party sees an opportunity to upstage the BJP, and 2019 general elections. Currently, the Congress is in power only in Punjab, Mizoram, and Puducherry, a union territory.

The BJP too met with the governor in the morning today, and Yeddyurappa was confident that the party would be invited to form the government. BJP National Vice President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe has expressed confidence that his party, which has emerged as the single largest in the assembly elections, will form a government in Karnataka. One thing seems obvious in the case that the BJP is not asked to form the government – it would be curtains for Yedyurappa’s political career. There is a saying in Kannada – Antu into Kunti makkaLige yendu raajyavilla. This proverb is reserved for unlucky ones who never make it however much they struggle. The Pandavas, sons of Kunti, spent their childhood and youth in exile, and even after they finally won the great Battle of Mahabharatha there was nothing to rule but a ghost kingdom. Sure, Yedyurappa had his chance, and lost it. But in his effort to re-emerge, despite his party’s great performance, if the Congress-JD(S) alliance comes through, his own future looks uncertain.

In the raajneetik naatak that is Karnaatak politik, the spotlight is now firmly on RSS and BJP veteran, governor Vajubhai Vala. The Times of India earlier today noted, “the BJP-led NDA's courtroom victory in the Bihar President's rule case in 2006 may come back to haunt it in Karnataka as a constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the governor has no option but to invite any party or alliance, either prepoll or post-poll, to form the government once he was satisfied that it commanded majority support in the assembly.”

The report went on to add: The foundation for limiting the governor's discretionary power was laid down by a seven-judge constitution bench of the SC in the landmark S R Bommai case in March1994. It was finetuned by the SC in the Rameshwar Prasad case in January 2006, when a five-judge bench by three to two majority had said, "There is nothing wrong in post-poll adjustments and when ideological similarity weighs with any political party to support another political party though there was no pre-poll alliance, there is nothing wrong in it.”

The judgment was unequivocal in what it thought about a scenario like this. I quote: “If a political party, with the support of other political party or other MLAs, stakes claim to form a government and satisfies the governor about its majority to form a stable government, the governor cannot refuse formation of government and override the majority claim because of his subjective assessment that the majority was cobbled by illegal and unethical means. No such power has been vested with the governor. Such a power would be against the democratic principles of majority rule. Governor is not an autocratic political ombudsman. If such a power is vested in the governor and/or the President, the consequences can be horrendous.” We have seen this at work as recently as in Goa, Meghalaya, and Manipur.

Former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee had said the governor was bound to first invite the single-largest party after a general election to form a government and give it a definite period of time to prove its majority in the House. "If it fails, the governor can give other parties a chance to form a government. If none could form the government, then the governor could recommend imposition of President's rule in the state and keep the House in suspended animation," he said. Sorabjee's view draws sustenance from the Sarkaria Commission report of 1988 on Centre-state relations. There is precedent for this too – in the 2014 Maharashtra elections, BJP was the single largest party with 122 seats out of 288. Shiv Sena had 63, Congress 42, and NCP 41. BJP was invited to form the government. Similar scenarios unfurled in the 2008 Rajasthan and 1996 Lok Sabha elections.

Which way the wind will blow near Raj Bhavan Road, we will find out soon enough. Until then, let the political games continue.

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