Late night meetings, secret huddles and the spotlight firmly on the Bengaluru Raj Bhavan set the stage for what will be a hectic week in Karnataka after no single party crossed the half-way mark in the state elections, the results of which was a roller-coaster ride much of Tuesday.
The BJP with 104 seats — eight short of a simple majority — emerged as the single largest party but the Congress, in the second position with 78 seats, moved quickly to extend support to JD(S) which, with 37 seats, staked claim to form the government.
The Congress offered unconditional support to JD (S) leader H D Kumaraswamy and they approached Governor Vajubhai Vala to let them form the new government. The BJP too approached the Governor, stating that it had emerged as the single largest party in the polls.
But unlike 2008 when it had 110 seats and rode to power after winning over five Independent MLAs, the BJP was in a bit of a spot this time — the Others are only three including one from the BSP.
Before meeting the Governor, Kumaraswamy had informed Raj Bhavan that he had the unconditional support of the Congress: “I have accepted the support extended by the Indian National Congress (I) party for forming the government.’’
“Finer elements of the coalition will be discussed by seniors in both parties and finalised,’’ Kumaraswamy told reporters at the Raj Bhavan. He met the Governor along with outgoing Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot.
Late in the night, the Congress leaders had a meeting with Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy at a hotel in Bengaluru where Azad is staying. Senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga leader, too was present.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone after the meeting, Azad said: “We have the majority. We have 117 MLAs. The BJP has only 104 MLAs. The Governor will have to invite us, especially against the backdrop of the latest judgment of the Supreme Court. We had gone to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Goa Governor… because we were the single largest party there. The BJP was far behind… They joined hands with a third party and formed the government.”
“We have a clear-cut majority here. We need 111. There are two vacancies and Kumaraswamy has won from two constituencies. So the half way mark is 111. And we have 117.” The Congress, he said, decided to extend support to the JD (S) despite winning more than double the numbers of seats. “Because we were in power and we lost, so we are not forming the government… we will support the JD (S),” Azad said.
Congress sources said the delegation that met the Governor conveyed that he should call the coalition partners to form the new government, as was done in Goa and Manipur, and that he need not invite the single largest party.
A BJP delegation led by its chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa also met the Governor and staked claim to form the government. “We have said that we are the single largest party and we should be allowed to form the government,” he said.
The Governor is said to have told the delegations that he would await the official communication from the Election Commission on the final results before taking any step. Click here for full list of winners in Karnataka Election Results
Earlier, ahead of their meeting with the Governor, Congress leaders announced that an agreement had been reached by the party to support the JD (S) in forming a government “in the interest of protecting secular, political ideals” in the state.
“We have sat together and decided we will support the JD (S) to form a government, “ Siddaramaiah said before he submitted his resignation to the Governor. “The JD (S) has agreed to our offer of support. This has been decided with Deve Gowdaji and Kumaraswamyji,” Azad said.
State Congress president G Parameshwara, tipped to be the Deputy CM if the coalition forms the government, said: “We bow before the verdict of the people. The verdict so far shows that no party has got a clear verdict. Congress has come to a decision that it will support JD (S) in the interest of secularism.”
As many as 18 ministers of the Siddaramaiah government were defeated in the polls — the Chief Minister himself lost one of the two seats he contested.
The BJP crossed the 100-seat mark which it had done in 2008 by regaining its hold over coastal Karnataka and adjoining regions and in the Lingayat belt in Mumbai Karnataka. The BJP won 16 of 19 seats in coastal Karnataka as against four in 2013, and 30 of 50 seats in the Mumbai Karnataka region where it won only 13 last time.
The Congress effort to divide Lingayat votes with the recommendation of a separate religion status for the community seemed to have backfired with voters in the Lingayat belt opting for the BJP following the return of Yeddyurappa to the party fold after a brief exit in 2013.