The number game in Karnataka political drama

Though BS Yeddyurappa took oath as the 23rd Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday, the battle for the southern state is still not over.

The number game in Karnataka political drama
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BENGALURU: Though BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa took oath as the 23rd Chief Minister of Karnataka on Thursday, the battle for the southern state is still not over.

After a high-octane political drama, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented overnight hearing, refused to stay BS Yeddyurappa's oath ceremony – a demand made by the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular led by HD Deve Gowda.

After the keenly contested Karnataka assembly elections 2018, the electorate gave a fractured mandate as all major political players – Congress, BJP and the Janata Dal S – failed to reach the majority mark of 112 to be able to form a government in Karnataka.

It is to be noted that after the single-phase polls on May 12, BJP managed to win 104 seats, Congress 78, while Janata Dal-Secular 38 and others 2.

Importantly, the elections were held for 222 seats of the 225-member assembly. The election to the Jayanagar seat was countermanded following the death of the BJP candidate, while polling was deferred to May 28 for RR Nagar seat due to alleged electoral malpractices.

The polling in Karnataka is held for 224 seats as one member is nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.

Though the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 MLAs, it fell eight short of the magic figure of 112. In order to prevent the BJP from forming the government in Karnataka, the Congress hurriedly stitched a post-poll alliance with JDS and staked claim to form the government in the state. 

The Congress and JDS combine also claimed to have 4 more (116) than the number (112) required for forming a government. However, in a setback to the Congress- JDS combine, the Governor Vajubhai Vala used his discretion and invited BS Yeddyurappa, the leader of the BJP Legislative Party, to take oath as the chief minister and prove majority on the floor of the house in 15 days. 

This unleashed a legal battle in the country's top court with Congress and JDS challenging the Governor's decision to invite BSY for government formation. 

In an unprecedented overnight hearing, the Supreme Court refused to stall the oath ceremony. The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, however, said that the government formation would be subject to the final outcome of the case before it, while also maintaining that the Governor's decision cannot be overruled since it is a constitutional authority.

The apex court, which paved way for Yeddyurappa's oath ceremony through its order, also directed that the letter sent by the BJP to the Governor for forming the government be placed before it.

The bench posted the matter for hearing at 10.30 am on Friday.

Though BS Yeddyurappa has taken oath as the 23rd chief minister of Karnataka, the fate of his government still hangs in balance. During a crucial hearing on Friday, the ruling BJP will have to convince the top court that it has the required number to sustain its government in Karnataka. Failing which, the apex court might ask Yeddyurappa to prove majority in a time-bound manner or can even dismiss its government and invite the Congress-JD(S) coalition.  

Since the ball is still in the court of law, whispers of defections and rumours of horse-trading have also grown louder with accusations and counter-accusations by BJP and Congress about alleged attempts to poach the newly elected lawmakers. The JD(S) chief, Kumaraswamy, had on Wednesday alleged that the BJP was trying to bribe the newly-elected MLAs from his party with Rs 100 crore each - a charge rejected by the saffron party.

As uncertainty prevails, the support of independent MLAs has become crucial for both BJP and the Congress-JDS faction in number game in this southern state.      

Interestingly, several Congress lawmakers had skipped the Legislative Party meeting on Wednesday, forcing the party to accuse the BJP of trying to poach its MLAs.

BJP or Congress – which party will eventually succeed in solving the Karnataka puzzle will be clear in a matter of a few hours from now when the top court takes up the matter on Friday but till then the bitter struggle for power in Karnataka will go unabated. 

(With Agency inputs)