Nataka in Karnataka
Can Congress pull off great heist?

It’s a hung assembly. After a highly tense, dramatic day during which fortunes swung wildly, BJP emerged as the biggest single party with 104 seats. Congress won 78. HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S) emerged the dark horse with 37 seats. Even as the counting was on, Congress and JD(S) stitched together a post-poll alliance and lost no time in claiming a stake to form the next government. BJP’s strongman in the state BS Yeddyurappa (Yeddy) too lost no time in reaching Raj Bhavan. He has asked for one week’s time to prove his majority. All eyes are now on governor Vajubhai Vala who will have to decide whether to call BJP to try to form the government or go with the JD(S)-Congress combine, which together have a clear majority in the 224-member Assembly.

After a high voltage campaign, Karnataka is now bracing itself for non-stop drama. Days ahead will see power play like never before. Sources in state Congress said their MLAs and JD(S) MLAs are going to be kept in a “safe and secret resort.” Rumour mills have that MLAs are being escorted to neighbouring Kerala, away from BJP’s preying eyes.
All Congress and JD(S) MLAs were camping at hotel Shangri-La in Bangalore on Tuesday night. They will be taken to the airport in coaches on Wednesday morning to fly out to Kochi. Goa was under consideration initially, but the destination was rejected on safety grounds, according to JD(S) sources.

The governor is not going to make this any easy for either BJP or Congress-JD(S) combine. He might consider Yeddy’s request for one week’s time and allow them to work an alternative.

“Maybe HDD ( Deve Gowda) would allow this to happen and ensure the BJP does not get the trust vote on the floor putting to rest all voices which say ‘we had the mandate’, said BS Murthy, an independent poll observer.

The tireless political Chanakya HDD is the most sought after man in Karnataka today with both prime minister Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi desperately reaching out to him. A veteran at power play, both at national and state pitches, the ball is clearly in his ’ court. Neither Congress nor BJP would have thought of such a situation a week ago.

However, political observers say, the father and sons and their party JD (S) are not understood by Delhi pollsters.  The party has done well across Bangalore Rural, Mandya, Mysore and Hassan.  The wave of JDs was decisive and swept even the sitting popular CM with over 36,000 votes. Majority of the seats in these districts have been won with huge vote margins in the range of 25,000 to 60,000. This shows the JD (s) cadre’s sheer grit, determination and its single agenda of making Kumaraswamy CM again.

Political observers are keenly watching how Raj Bhavan and Amit Shah would handle the tough situation at hands. It will be difficult for Shah to create another Goa, J & K kind of scenarios. Any attempt of horse trading or snatching away of JD (S) MLAs may back fire. No national BJP leader has personal connect with HDD and even local leaders of the party have no good equation with him. Now Shah

may talk to S M Krishna and he in turn may try to convince HDD. All these are remote chances at this stage. Adding another angle is Mayawati-led BSP which has a pre-poll tieup with JD(S). She is most unlikely to be game for any tieup with archrival BJP. A pack of BJP leaders comprising of JP Nadda and Dharmendra Pradhan are camping in Bangalore.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, accompanied by

Ashok Gehlot met senior Gowda a day earlier as a precursor to the joint formation of the government. Azad shares a personal rapport with HDD. The unconditional offer of Congress was quickly accepted by the JD(S) supremo and his son. This startled BJP as they were still hoping that they would cross the 110 number and things looked good for them till 2 PM .

This is the third time in the state’s history that the Son of the Soil donning the same mantle. In 2004 nobody had the majority: BJP was the single highest party followed by Congress and JD (S). Deve Gowda was the king maker then and he brought Dharam Singh as the CM of JD (s)- Congress government.

Some 20 months later, HD Kumaraswamy has brought the government down in a political coup and formed a government with BJP. Again in 2008, BJP won 108, Congress 80, JD (S) 28 plus six independents.  The BJP with independents formed the government and also initiated Operation Lotus to poach MLAs from Congress and JD (S).

Between 2003 and 2013, Karnataka witnessed a highest degree of political instability featuring five chief ministers — Dharam Singh, Kumaraswamy, Yeddyurappa, Sadananda Gowda and Jagdish Shetter.

“The more Karnataka politics looks different the more it remains the same. Same players, same power centres, and same King Maker and the same King. But the truth is that nothing has changed here as today’s scenario already existed twice here before,’’ said Murthy.

“HDD is a man who strongly believes political events. He knew his time would come again if you waited patiently and kept your flock together,” said Ashok Kumar, a staunch JD worker.

HDD is always neglected and sidelined by national media, but he never bothers about what media says or his critics say. He remains focused to ensure his party stays relevant and engaged. Age has not taken away the killer instinct in HDD. In JD (s) election game, each cadre believes he himself is the winner when the party wins. Interestingly, JD (s) is the only party which remained relevant all through in the last 20 years.