Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala’s invitation to BJP legislature party leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the next government brings to an end round one of the tug-of-war between the BJP on one side and Congress-Janata Dal (S) combine on the other for control of the crucial southern state.
It triggers off a fresh tussle for Yeddurappa to cobble a majority which he lacks because his party fell short of the half-way mark in the state assembly by eight seats in the recent elections and for JD (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy to establish through legal process that he was the legitimate claimant in the light of his party having entered into a post-poll arrangement with the Congress or for the two parties to defeat the BJP on the floor of the Assembly.
The net result would be that the uncertainty in Karnataka would continue for the next few days.
The irony is that there is no established clear principle that lays down who should get the Governor’s nod first—the leader of the single largest party or the leader of a post-poll alliance that claims to have crossed the half-way mark by dint of the alliance.
Had the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) been pre-poll partners, there would have been no ambiguity. But the two parties fought the elections tooth and nail and came together in what can be called an expedient and arguably an opportunistic alliance for the sake of grabbing power.
In the last meeting that leaders of the Congress-JD (S) alliance had on Wednesday afternoon with the Governor, they offered to parade the legislators of the two parties before him to prove their strength. But this was rejected by Governor Vala who pointed out that which of the legislators were with them must instead be proved on the floor of the Assembly.
There is indeed case law and precedents on both sides –for the BJP and for the Congress-JD (S) combine--- and it had to be left to the Governor’s discretion exercised in his wisdom. There was an influential body of opinion---leading jurists like Harish Salve and Soli Sorabjee and constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap, among others, that opined that inviting the leader of the single largest group was the right course for the Governor. But some weighty jurists thought otherwise.
Those who believe that the Congress-JD (S) combine should have been given first shot at power say the Governor’s chosen course of inviting Yeddyurappa would encourage horse-trading and therefore should have been eschewed.
However, can one deny convincingly that the tie-up between the Congress and the JD (S) was not the result of a below the carpet underhand deal with a hidden agenda that was dubious?
Presumably, the Supreme Court which has been approached by the Congress party to deliver a speedy interim or permanent verdict would lay down some principles, but as things stand, it is a blind alley. Apparently, the Congress plea to the Chief Justice of India to decide on a war footing has not been favoured by the apex court, or so it seems, at least until going to press.
Yeddyurappa’s camp says there are victors in Congress ranks who are unhappy with the party’s alliance with the JD (S) and would rather go with the BJP. This is claimed to be especially true of Lingayat caste legislators since JD (S) leader Kumaraswamy is a Vokkaliga and the two castes do not see eye to eye.
The real test of claims and counter-claims would, however, be the floor of the assembly when Yeddyurappa faces a test of confidence. The battlelines are indeed drawn and the crucial next round is being much anticipated. This is, however, on the assumption that the apex court would not intervene and change the process in the meantime.