Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made remarkable inroads into Karnataka and emerged as the single largest party on Tuesday, but fell short of the magic number. The party that started the day with cheers and celebrations, was found counting numbers and running to the Governor’s house later in the day in a bid to stake claim to the government, despite having won 104 seats in the 224-member Assembly.
Towards the end of the counting, BJP fell 9 seats short of a majority in Karnataka while the Congress dramatically announced its support for arch-rival JD(S) and was even willing to let it head the government in a post-poll alliance.
All eyes are now on Governor Vajubhai Vala who will have to decide whether to call BJP to try to form the government or go with the JD(S)-Congress combine, which together has a clear majority in the Assembly. JDS (+BSP) has won 38 seats while Congress has won 78 seats and together they have 116 MLAs along with an additional support of 2 Independent MLAs.
According to sources, in case the Governor fails to invite JD(S)-Congress to form the government, Congress will move its MLAs to a resort near Bengaluru after its legislative party meet on Wednesday. BJP, on the other hand, has decided to wait and watch as the drama unfolds.
BS Yeddyurappa met Vala and asked for seven days’ time to prove majority on the floor of the House. Sources say, BJP is looking at offering the Deputy CM’s post to a JDS leader who can come with some of his MLAs. BJP has also apparently approached six ‘unhappy’ Lingayat MLAs from Congress.
Elections were held for 222 seats on May 12 while polling for the remaining two will be held later.
Both sides rushed to meet Vala on Tuesday, their vehicles slowly cutting through the throngs of party workers and supporters assembled outside the Raj Bhavan gates, and staked claim to power even before the Election Commission could announce the final tally.
Addressing BJP workers in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who undertook a vigorous campaign, hailed the party's win in Karnataka as "unparalleled and unprecedented".
"We had to be ready for any eventuality. So when there was a window, we chipped in," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said. "...when the JD(S) and the Congress numbers swelled up, that was the time we felt we can make it."
Azad's comments sums up the breathtaking daylong developments in an election seen as a bellwether for the 2019 general elections at a time when the saffron wave is sweeping the country.
Several BJP and Congress leaders rushed to Bengaluru from the national capital on Tuesday as the results kept coming in.
The swift political manoeuvring by Congress in reaching out to JD(S) showed that it had learnt its lesson after the debacle in Manipur and Goa where it failed to form the government despite being the single largest party because of BJP's shrewd moves.
"We have all together discussed and decided this... This is the opinion of the All India Congress party. Congress will support JD(S) because there is a hung Assembly situation here as no party has been given clear majority by the people," outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters after submitting his resignation. Siddaramaiah lost his key constituency Chamundeshwari while Badami proved to be his saving grace where he won with a meagre over 1,696 votes.
Siddaramaiah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge along with JD(S) state Chief H D Kumaraswamy met Vala and submitted a letter seeking an opportunity to form the government. Later, they met at a 5-star hotel in Bengaluru to discuss the modalities while waiting for the Governor to decide.
BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa, has meanwhile, accused Congress of trying to grab power unfairly as the Congress kept reminding the saffron party of its own actions in forming the Goa and Manipur governments.