Karnataka: Giving BJP 15 Days is an Invitation to Horse-Trading

As the Congress-JD(S) alliance stakes claim to form the government, a look at what giving BJP a week to gather its strength would involve.

[This video was recorded on at 5:30 pm on May 15. An edited, updated transcript is appended below]

Karnataka’s results are all out and the only thing we can say with certainty is that it’s a great time to be an MLA! There are reports that the governor has decided – on the basis of what, we can’t say for sure – that he will give B.S. Yeddyurappa, the leader of the BJP in Karnataka, a whole week in which to try to form a government. At any rate, the BJP has staked claim and and asked for time.

This, despite the fact that the places the BJP at 104 seats. That is eight short of the half-way mark of 112. Not only that, the Janata Dal (Secular) (along with its ally, the BSP) and the Congress put together have 116 seats. They have publicly stated, and also put down in writing, that they intend to form a government together. And this has been conveyed to governor Vajubhai Vala.

To my mind, the governor ought to invite Kumaraswamy on the basis of the declared support that the Congress Party has given him to form the government because he clearly enjoys the support of a majority of MLAs.

However, reports say he he has apparently given Yeddyurappa a week. This, to my mind, is nothing short of an open-ended invitation to the BJP to engage in horse-trading because if the BJP is stuck at 104 and all other MLAs – other than two who are independent – have already declared their intention to form their own government and not support the BJP, the only way that Yeddyurappa can form a government in the week that has been given to him is to engage in horse-trading – to somehow either win over the entire JD(S) or the entire Congress or engineer defections from either one or the other.

Clearly, any defections that he engineers would be on the basis of inducements that he would offer – financial or otherwise. And it is precisely in order to forestall this kind of horse-trading and respect the integrity of the election process that the governor in a way is duty-bound  to invite somebody to form a government so that this process can be over and done with quickly.

Sadly, he hasn’t done this. It’s interesting that what the BJP is now saying – that the governor is duty-bound to call the largest party – is not what the BJP said either in Goa or Manipur in the recent state elections where the Congress won and was the largest party. At the time, no less a person than Arun Jaitley had tweeted and gone public to say that ‘if you have a post-poll coalition which has the numbers to form the government, then the governor ought to call such a coalition to take part’. And that’s exactly what has happened in Karnataka.

Why has the BJP now changed its tune? We all know why. Any political party would act that way, I suppose, but the governor is different. He is a constitutional personality. He may come from the BJP, but as a functionary, as somebody sworn to uphold the constitution, he should do the right thing  –which is to uphold the integrity of the polling process and not create space for horse-trading.

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