With Karnataka voters throwing up a fractured verdict in the fiercely-contested Assembly elections, the battle for power in the state is now being fought on the streets as well as the Supreme Court. While Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader BS Yeddyurappa has taken oath as the Chief Minister of the state, political uncertainty continues to loom over Karnataka. The situation is such that even the top court of the country had to conduct a rare overnight proceeding to decide on a petition by the Congress-Janata Dal Secular combine on who will occupy the treasury benches in the Vidhan Soudha.
While BJP is confident of proving its majority on the floor of the House when needed, Janata Dal Secular and Congress leaders claim that they have the numbers. Though each of the 222 elected MLAs hold immense significance in the current situation, some names have stood out since the political parleys began on May 15. There are eight names, whose role is extremely crucial in deciding the fate of the ongoing power tussle in Karnataka. Here’s a look at the key players in the Karnataka political drama:
1. BS Yeddyurappa:
The BJP leader and Lingayat strongman is riding bravely against the tide as his party has fallen short of majority by eight seats. Despite being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state, the nightmare is continuing for him as the BJP is yet to prove its majority on the floor of the House. Though the Supreme Court paved the way for his swearing-in by refusing to interfere in the decision of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, it still sought letters submitted by BSY for staking claim to form a government. But BSY, who regained chief ministership for the third time despite many experts writing his political obituary during his legal battles, steered clear of the JDS-Congress roadblock. It was a race against time for the veteran politician when JDS-Congress combine firmed up their position on May 15, but Yeddyurappa managed to strike at the right place at the right time. He succeeded in buying time for gathering numbers for the floor test, the date for which is yet to be announced.
2. HD Kumaraswamy:
The race for chief ministership was confined between Congressman Siddaramaiah and BJP’s Yeddyurappa in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections. But when the results were declared on May 15, it was HD Kumaraswamy of the JDS who emerged as the dark horse. As the fractured mandate came to the fore, Congress extended a hand of friendship, which was grabbed without any delay by the regional player. Rubbishing initial speculations of the JDS ditching the Congress for the BJP, Kumaraswamy declared assertively that he would remain with the former no matter what. He also launched a fierce attack on the BJP, even recalling the 2008 ‘Operation Lotus’, which he termed as a “dark spot” on his father and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s political career. Kumaraswamy is currently working hard to keep his flock together, raising an alarm about possible horse-trading by the BJP.
The veteran Congress leader, who was with the JDS till 2006, has faced most of the blame for his party's debacle in the Karnataka Assembly elections. But unfazed by it, he has continued to rally behind the Congress, and in fact, has led from the front since the start of the political slugfest. He asserted that all Congress MLAs are together and the BJP would not be able to poach any of its lawmakers. Siddaramaiah should also be credited for not letting his personal differences with the JDS leadership come in way of the political tie-up.
4. Amit Shah:
Touted as the biggest strategist of the BJP, which now is in power in 21 states, party’s national president Amit Shah has once again displayed his political acumen by ensuring Yeddyurappa is sworn in as Karnataka Chief Minister. He camped in Karnataka before the elections and continues to strategise the BJP's response. When the Congress-JDS combine announced their deal, BJP was assumed to have lost the battle despite emerging as the single largest party. But by Tuesday evening, he exuded confidence while addressing party workers at BJP’s headquarters in New Delhi. He also rushed Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and JP Nadda to Bengaluru after briefing them and made sure that the Governor Vajubhai Vala ultimately invited Yeddyurappa to take oath as the CM.
5. Ghulam Nabi Azad:
Known to be a key player in the Congress, Ghulam Nabi Azad has struck a powerful note by formulating an alliance with the JDS even as votes were being counted. It did not take him even a day’s time to get a yes from the JDS leadership for a post-poll coalition, putting behind the war of words between the two parties in the run-up to the elections. He also spearheaded the move to stake the claim for government formation and then initiated the resort politics by moving the Congress MLAs to Eagleton resort near Bengaluru. A master strategist, Azad continues to camp in Bengaluru and fight on despite BSY having already taken oath as the CM.
6. HD Deve Gowda:
The former prime minister has had his share of bitterness with the Congress in the past. But he did not let that come in the way of the newly-found political friendship between the JDS and Congress. To show his complete support to the post-poll alliance, he even joined protesting Congress leaders at Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru on Thursday. Gowda throwing his weight behind Congress is also a key tokenism in national politics, possibly giving another shot in the arm to the opposition unity ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
7. Sonia Gandhi:
Though she is no more the Congress president, she continues to emerge as the saviour for the party whenever the tide flows against it. When the incumbent Congress government faced a rout in the Karnataka Assembly elections, she immediately sensed a fractured mandate and rushed her master strategist, Ghulam Nabi Azad, to Bengaluru to act before it was too late. She also reportedly spoke to JDS patriarch HD Deve Gowda and that possibly led to the regional party joining hands with the Congress.
8. Vajubhai Vala:
And last but certainly not the least, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala. The Governor remained strong and unfazed by the political onslaught from both sides. He stuck to the books, sought letters of support from both sides, and ultimately used his discretion to invite the BJP to form government in the state. Though his move has been challenged by the Congress is the Supreme Court, but even the top court conceded that they there was no ground for it to put a stay on the Governor's decision, as it was very much under the provisions of the Constitution.