Karnataka voters deliver hung Assembly, Congress-JDS alliance seeks power as BJP fumes

Elections for 222 seats in Karnataka was held on May 12. A record 72.36 percent of the 5.07 crore electorate cast their votes. Results were declared on May 15.

Karnataka voters deliver hung Assembly, Congress-JDS alliance seeks power as BJP fumes

It is a hung Assembly in Karnataka as none of the major parties - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Janata Dal Secular (JDS) - could reach the halfway mark of 112 seats in the election results announced on Tuesday. While the BJP took the top spot winning 104 seats out of the 222 Karnataka Assembly constituencies where polling took place on May 12, the Congress came second with 78 MLAs and the JDS bagged 37 to end a distant third.

Sensing the BJP was too close to the halfway mark, the Congress quickly played its cards and offered an unconditional support to the JDS on Tuesday afternoon by declaring that it was willing to install the 58-year-old HD Kumaraswamy as the next chief minister of the state. The Congress move was a shrewd one as in spite of having more MLAs than the JDS, the party decided to give up the chief minister's post to ensure the BJP was in no position to form a government in Karnataka. The Bhaujan Samaj Party, a pre-poll ally of the JDS, and Independent MLA from Mulbagal H Nagesh also declared their support for Kumaraswamy, giving the new alliance 117 seats, five more than the majority mark.

While Kumaraswamy would be the chief minister, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara has been offered the deputy CM's post. The JDS will also get 11 ministerial berths in Karnataka and the Congress 21. Even though the formula has been accepted by the JDS leadership of Kumaraswamy and his father HD Deve Gowda, there were murmurs of protest from the Congress Lingayat MLAs over the deal. The Lingayat MLAs, numbering about 10, are not in favour of giving Kumaraswamy, a Vokkaliga, the chief minister's chair. However, the rebellion is still not serious enough to send the alarm bells ringing in the Congress camp even though some of the upset Lingayat MLAs are reportedly in touch with the BJP state leadership.

In its bid to keep the Congress flock intact, the party leadership has decided to take all its newly-elected MLAs to a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru after the Congress Legislative Party meeting on Wednesday.

JDS leaders Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy also met Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad and former chief minister Siddaramaiah at Hotel Lalit Ashok in Bengaluru on Tuesday night to discuss the way forward. After the meeting, Siddaramaiah said that the Congress-JDS alliance has the numbers and Karnataka Governor Vijubhai Rudabhai Vala must invite them to form the next government. He, however, added that the two sides were yet to finalise the agreement.

But the BJP, which has been winning one state after another since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is in no mood to throw in the towel and rushed in its chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar to meet the Karnataka Governor before the Congres-JDS delegation could do so. Claiming that BJP had the right to form the government in Karnataka by virtue of being the single largest party in the state, its leaders also accused the Congress and JDS of ignoring the verdict and trying to grab power by using "dirty tricks". The party may also adopt a part of the Congress formula and ask a senior JDS leader to become the Deputy CM and bring MLAs close to him to the BJP camp.

On the other hand, the Congress counterattacked by pointing out that it was the BJP which had formed governments in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya by entering into post-poll alliances even though the former had emerged as the single largest party in all the three states. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that BJP had failed to secure the mandate in Karnataka as it has got just 36.2% of the votes compared to 56.4% by the Congress-JDS alliance.