JD(S) accepts Congress offer and to stake claim to form next government.
Post lunch, the Congress opened its heart in Karnataka and offered the chief minister post to H D Kumaraswamy. At the highest level, Sonia Gandhi spoke directly to JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda. Sources said that Sonia Gandhi requested Gowda to keep the BJP out specially since there is an anti-BJP coalition shaping up for the 2019 general elections.
To quell any doubts, the Congress pushed Siddaramaiah before the press where he said that the Congress will whole-heartedly and unconditionally support the JD(S) to form the next government. Siddaramaiah body language was not much to write about. He looked obviously upset and angry.
The Congress decision will mean that it will not stake claim to form the government, but allow the JD(S) to do so.
He was flanked but senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Ghelot, Mallikarjuana Kharge and state party chief Parameswara.
Azad said the JD(S) and Congress will meet the Governor Vajabhai Rudabhai Vala in the evening and stake claim in writing.
The JD(S) has accepted the both – Congress support and the CM post offer to Kumaraswamy.
At the same time, the Congress acted swiftly and aggressively when money-bag Congress leader DK Shivakumar met the one of the two independent candidates at Kolar. He was a Congress supporter and jumped into the fray when his candidature was rejected by the party.
Meanwhile, at 4 pm, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will meet the Governor and resign, but request the Governor to invite the JD(S)-Congress alliance. But he will wait till the final results are out.
Coming to numbers, the BJP is likely to end up with 105-106, the Congress at 73 and JD(S) at 41. Others are 2.
The JD(S) is not bothered if the Congress has lost the mandate or not; what matters most is that the JD(S) wants the CM chair at any cost. The party has been out of power for over a decade and faces a crisis of existence. If the Congress and the JD(S) come together, the number will be 114. If two independents join, the numbers would go up to 116.
The JD(S) and the Congress will try to justify that the mandate has not been lost as the vote share of the Congress and the BJP are more or less the same.
But RSS leader Ram Madhav was confident and had a one line answer when he said unequivocally that the BJP afterall had Amit Shah to work on the numbers. The message is that the BJP is a powerful political machine.
So, what would the BJP do? The party cannot split the JD(S) because that would mean taking away over 20 MLAs in order not to attract the Anti-Defection Law. One way out is to motivate 6 JD(S) MLAs to resign to bring the numbers down.
Another way out is that Governor Vajabhai Rudabhai Vala will not invite a leader, but ask the Assembly to invite the leader of the House. Here, the BJP may ask some of the JD(S) MLAs to abstain from voting. But if the JD(S) issues a whip and MLAs do not vote, they may be disqualified. But the JD(S) cannot afford to disqualify its abstaining MLAs because that would bring its numbers down.
So, if the MLAs abstain, there cannot be a floor leader and a majority. This will help the BJP in a big way.
And there are some thorny issues. The JD(S) wants Siddaramaiah out. He was the one who personally ran down the Gowda clan by stating that he will finish off Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy in this election. So will a sidelined Siddaramaiah give the Congress a tough time? May be.
Siddaramaiah is already fuming as he lost Chamundeswari seat to the JD(S) candidate by over 30,000 votes. And the Congress wants to tie up with his enemy!
But constitutionally speaking, the governor holds the key on whom to invite to form the next government. Since there was no pre-poll alliance, he has to mandatorily invite the largest single party, which will be the BJP. The saffron party will obviously ask for time to form the government, giving it enough space to hard-bargain with the JD(S) which is likely to play the role of a king-maker.
But if the JD(S) manages to get the unconditional support of the Congress, the governor may have to invite the alliance. But here he has a choice on deciding whether the support is unconditional and whether such an alliance will be stable. For that he will also look into the pre-poll utterances of the Congress and the JD(S). If he feels that the alliance will not be stable, he can recommend a brief spell of President’s rule.
According to the SR Bommai ruling of the Supreme Court, the Raj Bhavan cannot decide on who has a majority; that has to be decided on the floor of the Assembly. But the Governor has an unwritten discretion on whether a new alliance will be stable or not. If a section of the Congress or the JD(S) petition him on the unviability of the new alliance, that will arm the governor more.
The BJP will play the waiting game till the available last minute to break the JD(S) and their demands. The JD(S) is known to wilt under intense political heat. The BJP will use this to their advantage.
When K R Narayanan invited Vajpayee to form a government at the Centre in 1966, he had in his communique said that the largest single party should be invited or a pre-poll alliance.
Interesting day ahead.