How Congress leaders pulled off a post-poll coup, stumped BJP in Karnataka

Leaders of the Congress acknowledge that they have probably given the JD(S) more power than it could have ever imagined but for now, all its energy is channelised at keeping the BJP at bay.

Published: 20th May 2018 05:42 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2018 05:46 AM   |  A+A-

Vidhana Soudha

A view of the Assembly house during the oath-taking ceremony of the legislative members at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru | PTI

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Legislators of Congress and JD(S) raised a cheer inside the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday as B S Yeddyurappa announced his resignation as Chief Minister. A sense of relief and content was writ large on the faces of senior Congress leaders G Parameshwara, Siddaramaiah, M B Patil, R V Deshpande and, most importantly, D K Shivakumar. For four days now, the Congress has been protecting its MLAs with great caution -- the sole reason why the BJP could not muster numbers to prove majority in the House.

Over the last few days, the Congress has been on top of its game: right from offering the government on a platter to JD(S), beating BJP in its own game of post-poll alliance, banging on the doors of the Supreme Court at midnight over Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision favouring Yeddyurappa and blocking BJP’s every attempt to reach out to its legislators, the party has done it all and with great precision. The journey, however, has not been easy for the Congress.

“Even if one of our members went out of sight, even just to take a nap, we would be so worried and send someone after them,” said a senior Congress leader. While BJP was busy celebrating on May 15, Congress flew in Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot, and made a surprise offer to form a coalition government with JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy as CM.

Seventy-six of Congress’ 78 legislators have been in and out of resorts, hotels and even cities and states -- all in a span of 4 days. “When we were leaving for Hyderabad, we saw one of our legislators -- Rajashekhara Patil -- engaged in a conversation with two unknown men. The men had already bundled the MLA’s luggage into their car and were ready to take him too but our men intervened. While all others went by bus to Hyderabad, we flew him down,” recalled a senior leader on Saturday.

Ever since the counting day on May 15, the Congress has been two steps ahead of the BJP. While the saffron party sat back and relaxed as it crossed the 100-mark, the Congress swung into action. With a clear go-ahead from the party’s central leadership, the Congress offered the government to JD(S). “They took me by surprise. I never expected them to come to me. I was taken aback when Parameshwara called me,” Kumaraswamy told this reporter. The man who was expected to be the kingmaker had an irresistible offer to become King and he grabbed it with both hands. With one move, the Congress cut off the possibility of a BJP-JD(S) alliance.

While the BJP, claiming to be the single largest party, went to the Governor to stake a claim, the JD(S)-Congress combine staked its claim with numbers. The Congress was quick to move the Supreme Court when Yeddyurappa was invited to form the government, forcing the apex court to open its doors at midnight.

Congress worked overtime to keep  its flock intact

With the involvement of the SC, the Congress successfully ensured that the spotlight was on the BJP, thus successfully launching its second attack to cut off BJP’s chances of mustering numbers to prove majority.All this while, Congress leaders worked overtime to ensure their flock was intact. Having learnt its lessons from the infamous ‘Operation Kamala’, the Congress wasted no time in herding off its legislators to a resort in Bengaluru on May 16.

The Congress reposed its faith in Shivakumar, the man who had successfully protected Gujarat Congress MLAs during the Rajya Sabha elections last year. The resort was turned into a fortress until the time Yeddyurappa, as Chief Minister, removed the security, pushing the Congress to move their legislators to Hyderabad. In the run-up to the floor test, the Congress released audio clippings of BJP leaders allegedly attempting to poach Congress MLAs. While the BJP brushed the tapes off as fake, the Congress won the perception battle.

Leaders of the Congress acknowledge that they have probably given the JD(S) more power than it could have ever imagined but for now, all its energy is channelised at keeping the BJP at bay. It may have lost the people’s vote but the Congress has retained its position in power -- albeit in coalition with the JD(S) -- thanks to its quick thinking, united efforts and most of all, the ability to take BJP as well as the JD(S) by surprise. On Saturday, the Congress had a full house with all of its 78 MLAs, a sign that the party was ready to take on the strategies of BJP national president Amit Shah


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