BJP’s Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa is back as Karnataka’s chief minister for the second time but amid chaotic circumstances and unprecedented drama.
As the Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala invited the BJP Legislature party leader to form the government, the Congress-JD (S) post poll combine was livid and petitioned the Supreme Court to freeze the swearing in ceremony. The Congress-JD (S) alliance with a strength of 117 MLAs unambiguously had the numbers whereas the BJP despite emerging the single largest party after polls with 104 lawmakers, is clearly lacking the simple majority in an assembly strength of 222.
In a rare, post-midnight courtroom battle, the apex court threw ajar its premises for hearing the petition. Abhishek Singhvi, the counsel for the Congress-JD (S) prayed to the court to stall the swearing in event, pointing out that the Karnataka Governor’s step to call the BJP first violated Constitutional provisions and precedents of the court. The party or the combine endowed with the majority numbers ought to be given precedence in forming a government, he reasoned. To corroborate, Singhvi cited Delhi’s example where the Congress-AAP alliance was called to form the government amid BJP emerging the single largest party. Lately, in Goa and Manipur, Congress lost the plot despite being the single largest party as BJP which could cobble up the numbers, was given the preference. The seasoned lawyer went on to say that even a Governor’s discretionary powers were open to judicial scrutiny.
The apex court after hearing out the contentions from the two bickering sides, refused to stay the swearing in ceremony. Though the court cleared the decks for Yeddyurappa to be sworn in as the chief minister, he is restrained to form his Cabinet until he proves the majority.
The Congress-JD (S), is stoutly opposed to the Governor allowing 15 days to Yeddyurappa to vindicate his claim and prove majority on the floor of the house. Congress which after being handsomely outnumbered by the BJP in Karnataka assembly elections, cannily stitched a post electoral alliance with H Kumaraswamy’s JD (S) to scupper the saffron party’s comeback to power. The Congress bagged 78 seats and JD (S) has won 38 seats and the duo combined have 115 legislators, enough to form the next government. Congress has even offered the Big Brother’s role to the JD (S), to be read as abjuring the chief minister’s post in favour of the regional party.
BJP with 104 seats, is still shy of eight MLAs needed to touch the magic figure of 112. Where do they cobble up the deficient numbers? Will the BJP commit the Constitutional sin of poaching legislators from JD (S)? Kumaraswamy, the JD (S) supremo has alleged the BJP was offering Rs 100 crore to lure his party’s lawmakers. BJP knows anti-defection laws would apply to the MLAs only after they switch sides. This lacuna offers the single largest party the window of opportunity to garner support from the opposing camp. And, 15 days is ample time to demonstrate your strength as opposed to 48 hours granted by convention. The equations though won’t be as facile for the BJP as they seem on the surface. The Congress-JD (S) alliance is aware of its adversary’s predatory tactics and has been taking care to shelter the vulnerable legislators. Grapevine has it that the JD (S) MLAs are being shifted to discreet locations to ward off BJP’s overtures. Messrs Amit Shah & Company have profound brainstorming to do to set right this knotty political arithmetic.