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Karnataka victory seen helping moves by opposition to unite against BJP at national level

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The Karnataka fiasco left the BJP leaders red-faced as the party’s attempts to poach Congress MLAs became a matter of public discourse. 

New Delhi/Bengaluru: The failure of the BJP to woo MLAs from the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka to produce a majority and form a government has come as a shot in the arm for efforts at the national level to form a broad coalition of opposition parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy is set to be the next chief minister of Karnataka, with the incumbent B.S. Yeddyurappa resigning barely 55 hours after he was sworn in.

Opposition leaders from across the country – including Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Yadav –  welcomed the BJP’s failure in Bengaluru. Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in in the Karnataka capital, likely next week, is expected to be a show of strength by national opposition leaders, sources said.

Yeddyurappa chose not to go for the floor test and resign instead Saturday as the BJP failed to engineer any defection in the Congress-JD(S) camp.

“I will fight for the people of the state until my last breath. I will give my life for the people,” Yeddyurappa said in an emotional speech in the legislative assembly before adding that he would not move the trust vote but instead meet the governor and submit his resignation.

The saffron party, which was short of eight MLAs to reach the majority mark of 112 in the state assembly, suffered a huge embarrassment as it failed to lure a single Congress or JD(S) MLA to its side.

Governor Vajubhai Vala is now expected to invite the Congress-JD(S) combine—which has 115 MLAs plus the support of two independent MLAs in the assembly that has an effective strength of 221—to form the government.

The Congress has already announced its support for Kumaraswamy as the chief minister. The Congress is likely to get the Deputy Chief Minister’s post and plum ministerial portfolios.

The drama that unfolded after the election results last Tuesday has delivered a big blow to the BJP.

First, the state governor was seen as being blatantly partisan as he invited the BJP, the single largest party, to form the government, rejecting the claims of the Congress and the JD(S). He even gave Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove his majority on the floor of the house, a move that was seen as a favour to the BJP that needed time to shore up the numbers through horse-trading.

But in a midnight hearing that went on until the wee hours of Thursday, the Supreme Court intervened and ordered the floor test on Saturday.

Second, it’s the second time in the past nine months that Congress strategists have got the better of the BJP president and master strategist, Amit Shah. In August last year, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had managed to get elected in the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat despite Shah deploying all his might to defeat him.

On that occasion also, Patel had used Karnataka Congress strongman D.K. Shivakumar to shepherd Congress MLAs to Bengaluru and prevent any poaching by the BJP.

Third, the tactical victory of the Congress-JD(S) combine could give a fresh impetus to moves to form a grand alliance of the anti-BJP parties at the national level.

The Karnataka fiasco left the BJP leaders red-faced as the party’s attempts to poach Congress MLAs became a matter of public discourse. The Congress came up with five audio clips over the past 48 hours containing purported conversations allegedly between senior BJP leaders, including Yeddyurappa, and Congress MLA.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, Yeddyurappa was supposed to move the trust motion as directed by the Supreme Court. But even before he got up to deliver a speech, the writing on the wall was clear as the BJP had failed to secure the support of any additional MLAs from the rival camp.

Two Congress MLAs—Anand Singh and Pratap Gowda Patil—who were missing and were reported to be in touch with the BJP sprang a surprise as they showed up in the assembly in the company of Congress-JD(S) leaders.

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