In a day of changing fortunes, no party walked away with the prize in Karnataka. As counting began on Tuesday morning, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surged ahead and at one point of time had crossed the majority mark when leads were being counted as possible wins, but as the final results came in, the party fell nine seats short of a majority, but still in the race for a shot at power. Congress that was governing the State came second and the Janata Dal (S) was third. With a hung Assembly, all three parties have a chance at power and the action shifts to the Governor’s residence and what hand he will play.
Till late night the Governor had not invited any party to form the government. In the race is the BJP as the single largest party, which is facing a strong challenge from the JD(S)-Congress combine. While BJP is short of the numbers, the Congress, which lost power in the State, hurriedly announced that it was ready to back the JD(S) candidate H D Kumaraswamy as chief minister. The two parties together have a majority in the Assembly and have also staked claim to form the government.
The Karnataka results have taken BJP to the proverbial so near yet so far situation, especially since, and ironically, it was the very precedent set by the BJP-appointed Governor of Goa, who did not invite the single largest party to form the government in the State last year, that could still come in the way of the party forming a government. The Goa action of the Governor was being continuously repeated on television channels throughout the day, which saw the chance of a Congress-JD(S) combine forming the government in the southern State. But with the Governor yet to decide, it is still unclear whether he will follow that precedent, or opt to give the single largest party the first chance at forming a government.
The next few days will prove to be crucial in Karnataka. If BJP is given the opportunity to form a government and prove its majority, it has little choice as there are just two Independents that do not give them the numbers. BJP would have to attempt to enter into a deal with other parties to prove its majority. Here again, its choice is limited and it would have to fall back on the Congress or the JD(S) to cross the majority mark or break the two parties. On the other hand the Congress and JD(S) have to keep their flock together, which is not always an easy task. A crucial factor in BJP winning the power game is whether JD(S) will give up the opportunity of occupying the Chief Minister’s seat that has been offered to it by Congress, who stung by the debacle in Goa last year, acted fast this time.
With the Karnataka elections over, the focus shifts to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, less than a year away. Whether it is able to form the government or not, the Karnataka result has opened the gates to the BJP to make its entry into the South. This was a crucial election for the BJP where a win would be symbolic of its acceptance pan India. After managing to hold the North and West, make inroads in parts of the East and wrest States in the North East, the South was the only barrier to the party’s nationwide acceptance, and on Tuesday it crossed this to ensure a toehold in Southern India. This could turn out to be crucial for the party in its campaign for 2019, as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will vote for new State Assemblies before the Lok Sabha polls, and the results here could further determine the victors of 2019.