Eyes on governor as both sides stake claim


DRAMA IN SOUTH, STAGE DENIED IN DELHI: The musicians of Sohan Band stretched, yawned and twiddled their thumbs but could not accomplish what they had been hired to do at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi: make music and soup up the celebrations. They waited as confusion reigned over whether Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the architects of the Karnataka poll performance, would press ahead with the celebrations. Eventually, and hours after darkness fell, the two leaders did arrive but by then the south Delhi band had been told to leave.
Picture by Prem Singh

Bangalore: The Karnataka election has transformed itself from a breathless sprint into a partnership-testing relay run with the BJP setting a blistering pace and emerging as the single largest party but falling short of majority by eight seats.

Scenting blood after a morning of utter hopelessness, a chastened Congress shed its pre-poll reluctance and joined hands with the Janata Dal Secular, which staked claim to form the government.

At 116, the JDS-Congress combine now has four seats more than that required for a simple majority of 112 as elections were held in 222 seats. The margin climbs to six if two Independents, whose support the Congress claimed, are tossed in. 

The Congress, whose tally plunged from 122 to 78 even though it increased its vote share, has said the proposed government can be headed by the JDS, which bagged 38 seats. Outgoing chief minister and Congress leader P.C. Siddaramaiah announced on Tuesday night after a meeting at a city hotel that H.D. Kumaraswamy, JDS leader and son of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, should be the chief minister.

BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa, whose party won a morale-boosting 104 seats, also staked claim. He did not explain how the BJP planned to make good the shortfall. That the BJP has thrown its hat into the ring has fuelled speculation that attempts might be made to split the Congress or the JDS or "persuade" some MLAs to abstain from voting, which will lower the majority mark.

The ball is now in the court of governor Vajubhai Vala, who had once vacated his Assembly seat in Gujarat to enable Narendra Modi, then chief minister, to contest his maiden election in 2001.

The Karnataka result severely tests the prospects of Rahul Gandhi assuming the leadership of any Opposition front. But the fleet-footed Congress offer to support the JDS unconditionally appeared to have acted as a catalyst for Opposition unity with several parties stoutly defending the post-poll alliance in the south.

So dramatic was the turn of events that Mamata Banerjee congratulated the "winners" a little after 11am, adding that "if Congress had gone into an alliance with the JDS, the result would have been different".

A few hours later, it became unclear who the "winners" are.

In Bangalore, BJP spokesman Vaman Acharya was busy chalking out details on where to hold the swearing-in ceremony when word spread that the Congress was about to support the JDS. An immediate casualty was a proposed "victory celebration" on the premises of a city school, which was put off.

Siddaramaiah, who lost his traditional seat and scraped through in another, and AICC leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot emerged from the chief minister's residence to officially announce the support to the JDS.

They later headed to Raj Bhavan along with Kumaraswamy and his aides to submit their letters.

While the Congress letter informed the governor of the party's decision to support a JDS-headed government, the one signed by Kumaraswamy conveyed his party's decision to accept the offer.

Asked about the response, Siddaramaiah said: "We have complete faith in the governor. He said he would take a decision after getting the official copy of the election results."

BJP spearhead Yeddyurappa, who called on the governor before the combine did, said: "Being the single largest party, it's our right to form the government and we have informed the governor of our confidence of forming one."


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