A fortnight can be a long time in politics but as events unfolded on the day of the results for the Karnataka elections on Tuesday, even a span of few hours can be quite long.
In a day of dramatic developments, the JD (S) which trailed for most of the day, suddenly saw itself turning into a king from a kingmaker. By the end of the evening, JD (S) leader and former chief minister, HD Kumaraswamy, was seen rushing towards the Raj Bhavan to stake his claim to form the government with the support of the Congress.
But the scenario was quite different even a few days ago. Kumaraswamy had told this paper that he would rather sit in the opposition benches than shake hands with either the Congress or the BJP.
That quickly changed when the JD(S) and the Congress realised that they could not form the government on their own, and instead, may have to step aside to let the BJP form the government, a situation which both the parties did not foresee before the polling day.
It did not even take a couple of hours for the Congress to seek out JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda for an alliance. By late afternoon, the Congress had even agreed to let Kumaraswamy form the government.
The decision to align with the Congress was quite an easy decision as the JD (S) realised that any truck with the BJP would be suicidal as some of the regional parties have experienced before. The JD (S)-Congress alliance was perhaps the only option for Deve Gowda to keep his party and identity intact as ‘Operation Lotus’ (a plan to engineer defection from the Opposition) rolled out by BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa, was still fresh in the minds of political leaders.
Deve Gowda will not let go this opportunity without a fight if one goes by his track record. His manipulations and many manoeuvres saw him become the prime minister of the country and the one who was supposed to take over the post, Ramakrishna Hegde was left licking his wounds.
His quicksilver moves left the State Congress literally in tatters soon after the 2003 elections. When the SM Krishna-led Congress was in a position to form the government, but with the help of the JD (S), Deve Gowda put his foot down and made it clear that he didn’t want Krishna as chief minister. He eventually got him replaced with Dharam Singh. But within a short time, another drama was enacted with his son, Kumaraswamy rebelling against his father and aligning himself with the BJP which finally resulted in the downfall of the coalition government.
The same drama was enacted a few years later when Kumaraswamy refused to hand over the chief minister’s post to the BJP’s Yeddyurappa as per an understanding reached between them.
What remains to be seen is whether, in this theatre of politics, Deve Gowda can still manage to outwit the BJP which has got 104 seats in its fold but is unable to form the government as it has fallen short of a simple majority. This time around, Deve Gowda has some very formidable rivals in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to contend with.
Another ‘Operation Lotus’ is already under way, according to sources. There is a possibility that at least 9-10 legislators from the Lingayat community from both the Congress and the JD (S) are likely to abstain from voting in case the show of strength on the floor of the house takes place. The next few days will determine who wins the battle of wits.