Horse trading has begun in the race to form the government in Karnataka, and it looks like the BJP has gotten ahead of its rivals to poach MLAs from both the Congress and the JD(S). While JD(S) and its chief HD Kumaraswamy hold the key to who will form the government in the state, the BJP is trying every method, according to sources, to come to power by themselves. And leaders in the JD(S) have confirmed to TNM that five of their MLA-elects have been approached by the BJP in the last twelve hours.
JD(S) party members including HD Kumaraswamy, and the MLAs who won the polls on Tuesday are meeting at the Shangri-la Hotel in Bengaluru, to chalk out their strategy. The party vaulted into the limelight on Tuesday, when none of the parties in the state got past the halfway mark in Karnataka, and the Congress decided to make them an offer to form the government with Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister, with the Congress – which emerged as the second largest party – supporting them.
Balakrishna, JD(S) MLA-elect from Shravanabelagola and a close aide of Kumaraswamy, confirmed to TNM that party members had been approached by the BJP. However, he maintained confidence that no one would break away from the party. "The BJP trying to poach our candidates is undemocratic. It won't happen even in their dreams. We are clear and firmly with Congress to form a coalition government," Balakrishna said.
TA Sharavanan, an MLC in the party meanwhile added that at least five MLAs had been approached by the party, but none have considered leaving the party.
Sathyanarayana, the MLA-elect from Sira, confirmed that the BJP attempted to reach out to him. "This is the third time I am contesting. This is common for us. BJP has not discussed with me. They came through a close friend. Someone on behalf of BJP approached me," he said.
Gopalaiah, the winner from Mahalakshmi Layout, also reiterated the party stand and claimed that booking resorts was "not out of question."
However, GT Devegowda who defeated Siddaramaiah in Chamundeshwari said: "I have not been approached by the BJP. Nor have I even been wished by any BJP member."
The JD(S) won 37 seats in the Assembly elections, and its pre-poll ally BSP won one seat. However, since Kumaraswamy himself won from two constituencies, they have a total of 37 MLAs on their side.
The BJP which won 104 seas, needs another 7 seats to prove a simple majority in the 221-member Assembly. (The Karnataka Assembly has 224 seats. Two of the constituencies did not go to the polls this time, and HD Kumaraswamy won from two constituencies, making the total strength 221 right now.)
The Congress, which won 78 seats meanwhile, has given unconditional support to the JD(S) in a bid to form a coalition government and keep the BJP away. Talks are on between the two parties to work out the finer details of this deal, but in principle, the JD(S) has accepted the offer.