The great Karnataka numbers game: What are the likely scenarios

The BJP is the single largest party, but the Congress and an undivided JD(S) will be able to pull the rug from under their feet.
The great Karnataka numbers game: What are the likely scenarios
The great Karnataka numbers game: What are the likely scenarios

If the Congress gets its wish in Karnataka, the party may just be able to give the BJP a taste of its own medicine in the state. Just like the BJP managed to form the government in Goa despite the fact that Congress had emerged the single largest party in the state in 2017, by stitching together an alliance with others, the Congress is trying to do the same in Karnataka – with a twist.

The Congress has now offered to support the JD(S) to form a government – with the Chief Ministership for HD Kumaraswamy. And in a matter of hours, the JD(S) agreed, with the condition that Congress will not just provide outside support, but will actually be a part of the government.

But does that mean the deal is done? Well, if the events of the first half of Tuesday are anything to go by, it’s not over till it’s over.

So, what are the possible scenarios in the numbers game?

As of 5 pm, the official numbers provided by the Election Commission said that the BJP has 104 seats in the state, the Congress 78, the JD(S) along with ally BSP has 38 seats. The two remaining seats in the Assembly have been won by R Shankar of Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) from Ranebennur constituency, and H Nagesh, an independent candidate from the Mulbagal segment.

While the BJP is the single largest party in the state with 104 seats, they have not reached the halfway mark. Even if the manage to woo the two others – Shankar and Nagesh – they will not reach the magic number of 112.

The only way forward for the BJP is to either get the support of the JD(S), or to bring over defectors from the JD(S) and the Congress into the BJP fold.

Considering the JD(S) has accepted Congress’s offer to form the government with HD Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister, it is unlikely that they will get the official support of the JD(S) now.

The JD(S)+ and the Congress together add up to 116 seats in the Assembly – well over the current halfway mark of 112, and safe even if they don’t win the other two constituencies where the polls have not been conducted yet.

But if the BJP manages to get the support of just eight more MLAs – piecemeal from the two parties – things could look very different.

The Governor’s role

A lot also depends on what the Karnataka Governor, Vajubhai Vala, chooses to do.

Speaking to TNM, constitutional expert Dr Subhash C Kashyap said, “The Governor has the power to use his discretion to appoint the person, who in his opinion will likely command majority support in the House.”

“One principle is that the leader of the largest party should be invited first, but there are also cases where the leaders of pre-poll and post-poll alliances were invited. There are precedents of all kinds. Governors have used their discretion in different ways,” he added.

“The Constitution also says that the Governor’s discretion can’t be questioned even in a court of law,” Subhash Kashyap said.

The Governor in this case could also do what the former Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao did, when he delayed accepting Sasikala’s stake to form the government in the state. In that situation, Vidyasagar Rao waited just long enough for the AIADMK to split, and then allowed Edappadi Palaniswami to form the government after Sasikala was sent to jail in the Jayalalithaa disproportionate assets case.

If Vajubhai Vala decides to use delaying tactics now, the situation will be ripe for some infamous ‘resort politics’ in Karnataka. The BJP, which needs defectors in order to form the government, could approach MLA-elects from both parties – and the JD(S) and the Congress, too, will resort to resorts to keep their flock together.

“In the Karnataka situation, I think the Governor will appoint the leader of the single largest party. The other alternative, academically speaking, is that the Governor should keep himself away from partisan politics and controversy, and invoke Article 175(2) of the Constitution and tell the House that it is not clear to him as to who commands majority support and declare it a hung Assembly. Whomsoever the House then elects, will be appointed by the Governor,” Subhash Kashyap added.

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