It’s done and dusted. The trust vote in Karnataka, which was being delayed by the ruling coalition, on some pretext or the other, finally took place on July 23.
As expected, H.D. Kumaraswamy lost the vote of confidence 99 to 105. While the BJP hailed it as a ‘game of karma’, Congress and JD(S) blamed BJP for horse-trading and carrying out Operation Kamala 2.0. The trend of no-coalition government lasting a full term has been maintained.
The JD(S)-Congress government lasted 14 months. It had been formed to keep the BJP out of power. The people had rejected the alliance in the polls, but they formed an opportunistic alliance against the popular mandate.
The JD(S) and Congress have opposed each other tooth and nail for decades in state politics. About 60 per cent of JD(S) MLAs (22 out of 37) defeated Congress candidates in the assembly polls.
People voted against the Congress in 144 seats (104 BJP, 37 JD(S), 2 Independents, 1 BSP). Rahul Gandhi referred to JD(S) as Janata Dal Sangh Parivar during his poll campaign. Deve Gowda called Rahul and Siddaramaiah “hypocrites who had once dined with the same Gowdas”.
While the Congress tally declined by 36% from 122 to 78, BJP’s more than doubled from 50 to 104. BJP gained seats across all regions vis-à-vis 2013 (except Bengaluru), while the Congress lost seats. Sixteen ministers of the Siddaramaiah government lost elections. The chief minister lost the Chamundeshwari seat by a big margin of 36,000 votes to JD(S) candidate. He just managed to scrape through on the other seat, Badami, where he won by mere 1,700 votes. Clearly the mandate was against the Congress and in favour of the BJP. The inherent contradictions of the alliance were too hot for Kumaraswamy to handle. The role of Siddaramaiah, who doesn’t share a great rapport with the Gowda family, is also being questioned. Many rebel MLAs belong to his camp. It is rumoured that he was not in favour of the alliance and playing second fiddle to Kumaraswamy.
Many Congressmen in hushed tones blamed the alliance with JD(S) for performing poorly in the Lok Sabha elections and were not in favour of continuing with it.
There are three options before the Governor: (i) inviting BJP to form the government, (ii) keeping the house in suspended animation (President’s Rule) for some time and later explore options (iii) ordering fresh polls.
However, he is likely to go with the first option and rightly so as the original mandate was pro-BJP. Re-elections would lead to significant expenditure at the cost of taxpayers.
The BJP, after its record performance in Lok Sabha polls, where it won 25 out of 28 seats, might have been tempted to go for fresh elections. BJP was leading in 169 out of 224 assembly constituencies, as per Lok Sabha trends.
Even after discounting the national elections, the Modi factor of 20%, BJP would still end up with 130+ seats, as per any safe calculation. This would have eliminated the dependence of BJP on rebel MLAs.
However, all MLAs would not have been happy at the prospect of facing the people again in just over a year’s time. Also, BJP strongman BS Yeddyurrapa wouldn’t have liked it either. He played a crucial role in BJP’s Lok Sabha performance and has waited patiently for his turn. The influential Lingayat leader is credited with the installation of the first BJP government in south India.
The track record of the earlier Yeddyurappa government suggests it won’t be easy for the BJP. Managing the aspirations of rebels as well as 30 odd ex-ministers in the BJP legislative party will require deft handling. Many MLAs in Karnataka have a history of hopping from one party to another, regardless of ideology for the sake of power. The party also needs to instal a Speaker of their choice.
BSY, at 76, is above the threshold limit of the party. The BJP needs to find a substitute soon under whom it would contest the 2023 polls. BJP adds another state in its kitty. However, it’s not going to be smooth sailing. Restoring the collapsed governance structure should be the top priority of Yeddyurappa, but whether he gets time from party politics remains to be seen.