With the Karnataka Assembly election results giving no political party an absolute majority, the focus is now on post-poll alliances and the ability of the three parties to prove their numbers.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the single largest party in the Assembly with 104 seats, but that's eight short of the magic figure of 112 needed to claim absolute majority in a 224-member House. On the other hand, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) claimed 78 and 38 seats respectively, meaning that while neither is able to stake claim to government by themselves, they could cobble up a majority by adding their tallies.
Constitutionally, the governor is duty-bound to first invite the single largest party (SLP) in the Assembly, which happens to be the BJP. The BJP would like to abide by the law in Karnataka because the law benefits it this time. Unlike in Goa and Manipur, where it went on to form government although it was the Congress that finished as the SLP, the saffron party will ask Governor Vajubhai Vala to adhere to constitutional proprieties and the law.
And though so-called legal minds may say otherwise, the law is clear on this: The governor has to call the SLP first. BJP wants that, so Vala, unlike his counterparts in the other states, will not have to go against any legal grain.
If that happens, the first hurdle for Yeddyurappa is election of the Speaker. What if the BJP's candidate is defeated by the joint Opposition candidate? The Opposition will use that to claim that the BJP govt is as good as defeated on the floor of the House. Once this is over, it is up to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on the floor of the House. And that he can do only by "persuading" JD(S) or Congress MLAs to either abstain or resign.
This will be where the ability of the two parties to protect their flock is tested. And thus, the strength of the House could be lowered to allow BJP to have a majority vote even with 104 MLAs.
This may necessitate 15-20 by-elections, but that will be a separate issue. The Congress-JD(S) combine would be defying logic and political maturity if they move court to insist that a post-poll alliance be given precedence over the SLP.
As for the BJP, unless it can manage to win most of the by-elections that take place, it will be a minority government and will never be able to get anything passed in the House, not even the Finance Bill.
Then comes the issue of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Being in the Opposition gives the antithetical Congress and JD(S) enough reason to fight the polls with an alliance, and that will harm the BJP's Lok Sabha prospects.
Meanwhile, if the Congress-JD(S) alliance manages to form a government, the two parties will start bickering within months and may not see eye-to-eye, which will benefit the BJP. So, the ball is entirely in BJP's court. Does it go for a pyrrhic victory by making Yeddyurappa chief minister now, or does it try to play the long game by targeting more Lok Sabha seats in 2019?
And secondly, there is a second school of thought: That Yeddyurappa is just a sacrificial lamb put forth by the BJP. The party's leadership hasn't much use for him any longer. He did his best, and it still fell short. He is also fuming silently about his son being denied a ticket. He is unhappy at being bandied about like a junior by Amit Shah. He can't deliver any more in 2019. He is getting old as well. So how to best get sideline him? The best way would be by making him chief minister.
Then comes the role of the two Independent candidates. If they join BJP, the party would need six more MLAs. Or, in order to necessitate a trust vote, they would need the strength of the House to be down to 211. Which means 11 MLAs from Congress and JD(S) have to abstain. Following which they have to quit. But they can't quit unless they take oath. And to take oath, an Assembly has to be convened. The pro-term Speaker will administer them oath.
So the Speaker's election has to happen before the trust vote. With 116 MLAs even if the remaining two join BJP, Congress and JD(S) can elect their own Speaker. The moment that happens, BJP will lose even the trust vote. To issue a whip, MLAs have to be sworn in first. It sounds complicated, though the governor may swear Yeddyurappa as chief minister first.
Updated Date: May 16, 2018 11:37 AM