A fractured mandate could lead to several scenarios and could throw up a dark horse as the chief minister
M Gautham Machaiah
As Karnataka goes to polls on Saturday with no visible trend in favour of any political party, the million-dollar question is: Who will be the next chief minister?
If any of the three contending parties obtain a simple majority of 113 seats when the results are announced on May 15, the choice is clear. It will be Siddaramaiah from Congress, BS Yeddyurappa from BJP or HD Kumaraswamy from former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular).
Opinion polls have failed to provide a clear picture. Some forecast a comfortable majority for Congress, others for BJP. Some others envisage a hung assembly with Congress or BJP emerging the single largest party without a clear majority, in which case the JD (S) could be the kingmaker.
A fractured mandate could lead to several scenarios and could throw up a dark horse as the chief minister. In the 2004, when no party secured a simple majority, the JD (S) propped Dharam Singh of Congress as the chief minister. Midway, Kumaraswamy ditched the Congress and crowned himself as the chief minister in alliance with BJP. As per the agreement, each party was to rule for half of the remaining part of the term, but Kumaraswamy refused to hand over the baton to the BJP and, when after much persuasion, Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the chief minister, the JD (S) ensured that his government fell within seven days, leading to president’s rule. The Gowdas are considered most untrustworthy partners due to their consistent inconsistency.
This time round, if no party obtains a simple majority and the JD(S) supports the Congress, it is certain Siddaramaiah will not be the chief minister. The Gowdas have for long been wanting to get even with Siddaramaiah, with whom they have a running feud ever since he quit the Janata parivar to join the Congress and become the chief minister in 2013.
Many ‘original’ Congress leaders too have an axe to grind with Siddaramaiah for sidelining them and would like to see him cut down to size. In such a situation, the names doing the rounds are that of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun M Kharge, KPCC president G Parameshwara and Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, among others.
If the JD (S) supports the BJP it remains to be seen if it would agree to Yeddyurappa as the chief minister, given their acrimonious past. This could lead to a catch-22 situation as replacing Yeddyurappa with some other BJP leader as chief minister may anger the dominant Lingayat community to which he belongs and harm the party’s interests in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Many BJP leaders, who are opposed to Yeddyurappa, see an opportunity here and are suggesting that in case of a hung assembly, the party should not stake claim to form the government, but should instead support Kumaraswamy as the chief minister for the first two-and-a-half years of the five-year term. Yeddyurappa will soon turn 76 and their calculation is that he will no longer be a contender when the BJP’s turn to form the government comes.
The BJP has many contenders for the post: former chief ministers Jagadish Shettar and Sadananda Gowda, former deputy chief minister R. Ashoka, union minister Ananthkumar and RSS leader BL Santosh, to mention a few.
There could be a third scenario too with Kumaraswamy having announced that JD(S) will not have a truck with either the Congress or BJP and would prefer fresh elections in the event of a hung assembly. In this happens, the state could be headed for president’s rule. Unless, the people vote divisively in favour of one party or the other, a spell of uncertainty seems to be in store.
(The author is a political commentator and a senior journalist)
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