Right after the Congress was rejected by Karnataka, the party's first family met at the Delhi home of Rahul Gandhi, who took over from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, as party president in December. It was at this gathering, which included Rahul's sister, Priyanka Vadra, that the family decided to make an urgent overture to Deve Gowda, the former prime minister whose party, the regional Janata Dal Secular or JD-S, netted nearly 40 seats of the 222 seats that went to polls. The Congress had less than 80. The BJP was in first place with 106 - six short of what it needs to form a government on its own. The Gandhis then authorised senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to call on Deve Gowda with the offer that his son, HD Kumaraswamy, could head a coalition government if the Congress got to choose his deputy. Gowda responded favourably.
All eyes were on Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala on Tuesday after a hotly-contested election threw up a hung Assembly, forcing the BJP and a hurriedly stitched alliance of the Congress and the JD-S to stake claim to form a government.
The BJP, which appeared confident of returning to power in its only southern bastion, emerged as the single largest party but failed to cross the half-way mark in the 224-member Assembly where two constituencies didn’t vote on Saturday.
The Election Commission data showed that the BJP could end up with 104 seats — eight short of simple majority.
The Congress appeared to have learned from its mistakes in Manipur and Goa where it, despite emerging as the single largest party in both states, reacted late and gave the BJP enough time to cobble together an alliance with smaller parties to form governments there.
This time, the Congress, set to win 78 seats, sprung a surprise and quickly announced its support to the Janata Dal-Secular which finished third with 37 seats in a bid to keep the BJP away from forming a government.
Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told the media in the company of outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah that the JD-S and the Congress “will meet the Governor and stake claim (to form a government)”.
Led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, the JD-S quickly accepted the offer and wrote to the Governor staking claim to power.
Both JD-S leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah of Congress then met the Governor and staked the claim to form a government.
“I have accepted the support extended by the Congress to form the government,” Kumaraswamy said.
That happened after BJP leader and its Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa met and urged the Governor to let him prove his majority support in the Karnataka Assembly. He was accompanied by Union Minister Ananth Kumar.
The ball now lies in the Governor’s court. According to usual practice, the Governor calls the leader of the single largest party or pre-poll alliance to form the government.
In the case of a hung Assembly, the leader is asked to prove the majority on the floor of the House within a stipulated time.
In Karnataka, the Congress and JD-S did not have a pre-poll alliance. However, it is for the Governor to take a call on who to invite first.
The dramatic turn of events that saw BJP’s jubilations swinging up and down throughout the day spoiled its hopes to form its own government in Karnataka — its gateway to the south.
According to party sources, three senior ministers — Dharmendra Pradhan, Prakash Javadekar and J.P. Nadda — have been rushed to Karnataka to strategise with the local leadership.
Mocking at the “desperation of a defeated Congress” to support the JD-S to form a coalition government to keep the BJP out of power, BJP spokesman Shantaram said his party was open to an alliance with the JD-S or seek its support to form the new government.
“We are open to JD-S support, if need be after all the results are declared. Our approach to JD-S will depend on the number of legislators we need to prove majority in the house or win the confidence motion,” he said.
BJP activists and leaders earlier celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and Amit Shah.
Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday. But the markets later went into the red.
Major drama unfolded as the counting of votes progressed in Karnataka on Tuesday with the BJP, for most part of the day, seeming set to return to power until the Congress sprung a surprise by announcing its support to the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and paving the way for the party with the smallest number of seats to form the government.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also announced it had urged Governor Vajubhai Vala to let it prove its majority support in the Assembly.
The Governor is yet to invite any party to stake claim to form the government.
The BJP and the Congress were engaged in a close fight during the first hour of counting with the former, at around 9.30 a.m., leading in 98 and the latter in 91 of the 222 constituencies that went to the polls on Saturday.
However, by the second hour, the BJP dramatically surged ahead towards the victory mark by leading in 105 seats, leaving the ruling Congress badly bruised and the JD-S at the third spot.
The BJP claimed victory by around 11 a.m. and noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as its nominees were on the victory lap in 118 constituencies. The Congress suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats.
The BJP was so confident of returning to power that congratulatory messages from its party leaders as well as allies started pouring in with several BJP leaders crediting the victory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extensive election campaign.
However, the Congress improved its tally to over 70 seats by the second half of counting with the JD-S also taking its number close to 40, thereby narrowing the BJP’s lead and pulling it short of the half-way mark.
After the initial euphoria of the BJP crossing the half-way mark in the 224-member Assembly — the election was countermanded in one constituency and one member is nominated — Election Commission data showed the BJP could end up with 104 seats, eight seats short of a simple majority.
The Congress was leading in 78 seats and the JD-S in 37.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Congress announced its backing to the JD-S to form a government and prevent the BJP from regaining power in its only southern bastion.
As it became clear that the BJP might not cross the half-way mark, Congress leaders quickly got in touch with the JD-S of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy.
Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told the media in the company of outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah that the JD-S had accepted the Congress offer of support.
But in another twist in the tale, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, announced in the evening that he had urged the Governor to let him prove his majority in the Assembly. (IANS)