In 2018, Karnataka voted in the State Legislative Assembly elections. This was a closely contested election. The Vidhana Soudha (state legislative assembly) of Karnataka has 224 seats. The BJP won 105 seats and the Congress and Janata Dal won 119 seats together and formed a coalition government.
But, things have been anything but stable in the political arena since then. If the coalition government thought they were safe for the next few years, they couldn’t be more wrong. The 2019 Lok Sabha results delivered a horrible shock to the Karnataka government. The BJP swept aside opposition to win a staggering 26 seats. While the Congress and Janata Dal could capture just one each. It almost seems like the coalition government is precariously hanging on to power. And, things took a turn for the worse when MLAs started to abandon ship.
6th July was the day the horror story started to unfold. It began with 3 Janata Dal MLAs and 10 from the Congress handing over their resignation. MLAs have to submit their resignation letters to the Speaker of the Vidhana Soudha. But Ramesh Kumar, the speaker was on leave then. The 13 MLAs also sought a meeting with the governor of the state Vajubhai Bala, after which they decamped for Mumbai.
This was simply the flood gates opening. Several prominent ministers on CM HD Kumaraswamy’s cabinet stepped down claiming their vacated seats might induce the rebel MLAs to return to the folds of the party. A couple of days later, two other MLAs quit as well. On 10th July, two Congress MLAs followed suit. DK Shivakar tried to be the mediator and come to some kind of terms with the miffed MLAs. But, they weren’t allowed into the hotel where the MLAs had taken up residence. Later that evening the police sent him packing to Bangalore.
Some of the resignations have not been accepted by the Speaker because they had not been composed according to regulations. These MLAs have appealed to the Supreme Court which will hear their case on 11th July. In addition, all eyes will be on the verdict. That is because, in the legislative assembly, the coalition government has merely 14 seats more than the BJP. If the resignations are accepted, the coalition’s seats will deplete drastically and that will give the BJP a world of advantage. The state legislative assembly session begins on 12th July. In all probability, BJP will try to pass the ‘no-confidence’ motion. In addition, those rebel MLAs whose resignation is not yet accepted will simply choose to abstain from voting. A no-confidence motion can only be passed when the majority of the house members vote in its favour. In addition, the BJP will have a majority on its side.
The CM naturally is pinning the blame on BJP for precipitating this crisis. In addition, BJP certainly does hold the advantage and looks to be the key player in Karnataka’s politics.
The BJP had been waiting in the sidelines and licking its wounds since its humiliating defeat in 2018. The coalition government could not present a unified front. There were unease, bitterness and the outright feud between the two partners- Congress and Janta Dal. Heavyweights of both parties, such as Siddaramaiah and Deve Gowda had been at loggerheads with each other over Gowda’s son becoming the Chief Minister.
And, a coalition government that is always bickering loses people’s faith who will naturally turn to the alternative.
So what happens at this juncture? If the resignations are accepted and the no-confidence motion is passed, then the BJP will be able to form a government in Karnataka. They have 108 MLAs and the coalition would be down to 102. The numbers are on BJP’s side.
However, if the coalition shrewdly convinces MLAs from BJP to switch sides and at the same time plugs the leaks in its ship by urging the rebel MLAs to withdraw their resignation, they could turn the tide in their favour.
There is a third scenario. If the independent MLAs do not extend their support to the BJP, they will not be able to form a government. And in all likelihood, a stalemate will prevail which would necessitate the governor to step in and take up the reigns and implement governor’s rule. Kumaraswamy will continue as the ‘caretaker’ CM while fresh elections are conducted.
The political scene in Karnataka is taut and tense right now. It’s too early for BJP to start celebrating even though they clearly hold most of the cards.