The BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, but has fallen short of a simple majority by nine MLAs. The Congress has secured 78, JD(S) 38 and Independents 2
M Gautham Machaiah
All eyes are now set on Karnataka Raj Bhavan. Will Governor Vajubhai Vala install a government led by the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress combine which has the numbers on its side or invite the BJP and enable it to create an artificial majority through horse-trading?
The Karnataka assembly has 224 seats and a party needs 113 members to cross the half-way mark. Elections were held for 222 constituencies as polls for two seats were countermanded. The BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, but has fallen short of a simple majority by nine MLAs. The Congress has secured 78, JD(S) 38 and Independents 2.
In a post-poll alliance, the Congress and two Independent candidates have offered unconditional support to JD(S), and the combine now boasts of 118 members.
The results are stacked in such a way, that the only means by which the BJP can form a government is through horse-trading. Though the BJP does not have the numbers, its leader BS Yeddyurappa has staked his claim to form the government and has sought seven days’ time to prove his majority.
If the governor invites Yeddyurappa, it will give the BJP a seven-day window and also a natural advantage as the party in power to poach opposition MLAs and create an artificial majority. A similar situation had arisen in 2008 when the BJP with 110 MLAs was short of three seats. Then, in what was called ‘Operation Kamala’, the party made several opposition MLAs resign to engineer a majority. These members later contested the by-polls on a BJP ticket and won.
Yeddyurappa has openly admitted that about 10 Congress MLAs were prepared to join the BJP “if” it formed the government, a clear indication that Operation Kamala-2 is already underway. JD (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy has alleged that Rs 100 crore has been offered to each MLA-elect to defect. It is suspected that one independent MLA has already crossed over to the BJP camp.
Another view within the BJP is that it should allow the JD(S)-Congress bloc to form the government and collapse under its own weight as disagreements are bound to occur between the two partners in the near future. Such a scenario could lead to fresh elections and help the BJP come back to power on a sympathy wave with a comfortable majority.
Many legal experts feel that the governor is bound to invite the JD(S)-Congress combine as the Supreme Court orders in the SR Bommai and Rameshwar Prasad cases do not give him much leeway for discretion, though there is another school of thought that he should first give a chance to the single largest group and explore other alternatives only if it cannot prove its majority.
However, of late, the single largest party doctrine has not found favour with many governors who have sworn in chief ministers only after convincing themselves of the numbers, in order to ensure stability and avoid horse-trading. The case in point is Meghalaya, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh where the respective governors gave an opportunity to the coalition which had the support of the highest number of MLAs instead of the Congress which was the single largest party.(The author is a political commentator and a senior journalist)
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