More than a year after the Assembly elections in Goa and Manipur where it formed governments despite not being the single largest party in the polls, the BJP Tuesday found the tables turned in Karnataka.
Emerging as the single largest party but short of majority in the Karnataka House, the BJP was scrambling to plot a strategy by evening after the Congress, in the second position, moved swiftly to extend support to the JD(S) which staked claim to form the government — the Congress had cried “murder of democracy” after the BJP cobbled up post-poll coalitions in Manipur and Goa.
Addressing party workers at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Karnataka results was an “unparalleled and unprecedented win” and “I want to assure the people of Karnataka that the BJP will not allow the state’s development journey to be trampled upon”.
But the mood in the BJP, which was euphoric when trends during the day suggested it was going to cross the half-way mark in Karnataka, turned sombre once it became clear that a simple majority would elude the party.
Referring to the proverbial hare-and-tortoise race, sources said there was a feeling in the BJP that it had been outsmarted by its rival despite holding the “advantages”. The developments in the second half of the day, sources said, were unexpected.
BJP leaders appeared surprised by the Congress alacrity this time, given that it had failed to move in Goa and Manipur. “More surprising was (H D) Kumaraswamy whose party benefited from our strategy (of the BJP going easy in JD(S) strongholds)… and then he agreed to go with the Congress,” a BJP source said.
At a campaign rally in Udupi, Narendra Modi publicly declared his “respect” for H D Deve Gowda. “I hold the door open for Deve Gowda when he visits me, I escort him to the car when he leaves. That is the respect a former Prime Minister deserves which others (referring to Rahul Gandhi) do not understand,” he said, adding: “You (Rahul Gandhi) disrespect Deve Gowda even though you are a novice and he is a veteran.”
The Prime Minister’s praise of Deve Gowda had prompted Rahul Gandhi to accuse the JD (S) of being the B-team of the BJP. This had Deve Gowda denying the possibility of any understanding with the BJP.
With the scenario “fluid” and the BJP exploring options, the party central leadership Tuesday rushed J P Nadda, Dharmendra Pradhan and Prakash Javadekar to Bengaluru. P Muralidhar Rao, party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka who had come to the national capital Monday, also returned to the state after meeting Amit Shah.
B S Yeddyurappa, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, too cancelled his trip to New Delhi. Party sources said the leaders have been asked to “explore all possibilities” to “see that the mandate is respected”.
“People of Karnataka have voted for change… Congress has lost this time. Even after being rejected, they want to form the government. I condemn this,” Yeddyurappa said.
BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said: “The majority of MLAs elected are those who opposed the Congress government. They were the anti-incumbency warriors, if I may call them that. Therefore, for the Congress today to stake a claim, directly or indirectly, for continuing to be in the government in Karnataka is perverse and against the mandate.”