Greed wins the day, but will BJP get the magical 112 seats?
BJP has to woo members of the Congress and the JDS to its side. This will involve blandishment, corruption, horse trading and the dangling of fat and juicy carrots.
On March 13, 2017 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley tweeted: In a hung assembly if the majority of the MLAs form a coalition the Governor would be constitutionally right in inviting the leader of the majority coalition to form the government and prove their majority within a short period.
If the Governor of Karnataka had gone by the Jaitley logic he should have asked the Congress-JDS combine parked outside his offices to make the government. Instead, Governor Vajubhai Vala invited BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the government and prove its stability and majority inside 15 days.
It is not a constitutional crisis and can be accepted as an equally valid option for the Governor to give the single largest winner the first shot at the coconut. The Constitution does not specifically mention either the right of the single largest party or the coalition so the governor decides and in this case risks being labelled a BJP puppet.
There are several precedents that have seen hastily cobbled coalitions come together even by the BJP itself (reference the Jaitley doctrine) where they justified their bypass into power as being perfectly legal. Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya.
None of this matters now. What does matter is how the BJP will achieve the magical figure of 112 seats, eight short from the 104 it has. This party should actually be red-faced with embarrassment for having prematurely kicked of their celebrations by accepting the TV channels conclusions that the Modi juggernaut had crossed the winning line and won a majority. When all that unraveled over three hours and the BJP fell from 114 to 104 and the Congress climbed from 64 to 78 seats utter chaos resulted. It would have been comical if it had not been so cruelly clumsy.
In a perfect world, the BJP high command would have said, okay we don't have a majority we will maintain the finest traditions of the democratic process and sit in the opposition and watch this so-called coalition of convenience make a mess of things. But it does not happen that way because the lure of political power is just too overwhelming.
As a result of this common greed, the BJP now has to woo members of the Congress and the JDS to its side. This will involve blandishment, corruption, horse trading and the dangling of fat and juicy carrots. Money will exchange hands as the demands of those who are having a change of heart spike and they will then be finding virtue in the BJP offers to justify why they renege on their parties.
The next 15 days will not edify the Karnataka legislature even if the BJP manages to get tacit support from another ten odd members of the opposition for its right to govern. During the Rajiv Gandhi rule in 1985 the Anti-Defection Law as contained in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, was introduced by the 52nd Amendment. It disallowed floor crossing and was passed to ensure that the blatantly open sport of bribing legislators was ended.
The more things change the more they stay the same and the Karnataka experiment is a clear example of begging, cajoling, threatening and paying off the super ten. The BJP will be hard pressed to sell the point that the 'shifters' are doing so because of a swell of love and affection for the Modi charm and have suddenly found the faith and their political salvation.
Clearly, those who will not get Cabinet posts in a coalition would look to see if the BJP has sweeter honey to offer. Those with criminal records or possible cases against them especially financial might ask for a free pass to offer support. Such a reassurance would go a long way in saving their skins. The two independents might offer their 'conditional' support.
Caste divides count in the state and infighting in the fragile coalition is also on the cards with breakaway groups sulking off because they haven't got enough of the power share. Such a group could promise backing from outside and navigate the anti-defection law.
All in all, a tacky and tawdry situation. And almost guaranteed to get much worse before it gets better . if it all.
Bikram Vohra is former Editor of Khaleej Times