Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was in Singapore since Saturday, which has led to speculation that his party, as also principal rivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress are preparing for a hung verdict.
Officially, the BJP and Congress expressed confidence that they will emerge the single largest party, and manage to cross the 112-seat halfway mark in the 224-member state assembly, polling for which was on Saturday.
Sources in both parties, however, also admitted that they have reached out to JD(S). Their tentative alliance formula proposed to the JD (S) was also identical. Sources in both parties said they would be willing to offer deputy chief minister’s post to the JD (S).
The Centre for Media Studies, a not-for-profit research organisation, on Monday said the just concluded Karnataka assembly polls were the “most expensive ever” assembly polls in the country in terms of money spent by political parties and candidates. It said nearly Rs 100 billion was spent in Karnataka polls, which was twice of the money spent in the assembly polls in the state in 2013. The research agency said the figure didn’t include the expenditure incurred on the prime minister’s campaign.
With the counting of votes of the Karnataka assembly polls slated for Tuesday, and most exit polls having predicted a hung assembly, behind the scenes negotiations are on. JD(S) sources said Kumaraswamy, who has been a chief minister once, is unlikely to accept the offer to be the deputy chief minister. The BJP and Congress are hopeful that Kumaraswamy would be amenable to accepting his elder brother HD Revanna as the deputy chief ministerial candidate.
Kumaraswamy, some in the JD(S) claimed, was in Singapore for health reasons. But it seemed former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s son wanted to get away from Bengaluru, and was set to return on Monday night.
Opposition leaders, including Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury and dissident Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, have also spoken with Deve Gowda.
While considerations other than purely political might dictate the eventual shape of things, Yechury and others have advised Deve Gowda to remember how his party suffered politically when Kumaraswamy formed a coalition government with the BJP in 2006 and also efforts that the opposition putting in to ensure a ‘one-on-one’ fight against the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha.
The JD(S) on Sunday complained that the Congress has not reached out to them. Congress sources said necessary outreach has been done since. On Sunday, outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he was open to a Dalit chief minister heading the Congress government. Some in the opposition said this was a clear indication that Siddaramaiah expected Congress to fall short of the halfway mark of 112 in the 224-member assembly.
Some others said Siddaramaih said this to put pressure on the Bahujan Samaj Party, which had fought the election in alliance with the JD (S), and BSP chief Mayawati would not approve of her ally supporting the BJP.
The JD (S) going with the BJP could hurt its Dalit and Muslim support base, but leaders conceded that stranger things have happened in Indian politics. Congress had two senior Dalit leaders in its ranks, leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and state Congress chief G Parameshwara. While Kharge has expressed his unwillingness to return to Karnataka, Parameshwara and Siddaramaiah have never been on the best of terms.
The BJP, meanwhile, has put its strategists, including Prakash Javadekar, Piyush Goyal and P Muralidhar Rao, on alert. The Congress has deputed Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot.