The people of Karnataka have given their verdict. Though no party has been given a clear mandate to govern, it’s certainly a vote against the incumbent Congress government headed by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. While the BJP emerged as the single largest party, a few seats short of a full majority, the Congress and JD(S) finished second and third respectively. But the developments after the results unveiled efforts that exemplified politics of opportunism practiced by parties in India.
This verdict can’t be pinned on a single major factor but should be seen as the result of many factors—local, regional and national—working at different levels and producing an impact that was difficult to read in the run-up to the elections. Though there was no perceptible anti-incumbency against the Siddaramaiah government, the people surprisingly have voted it out. Simply put, Karnataka has kept up with the trend of voting out the ruling party every Assembly polls.
With no party winning a clear majority, the result threw up many possibilities—an opportunity that the Congress and JD(S) were quick to grab. Now, we have a situation where the party with the lowest number of seats, the JD(S), may get to rule the state. Not unheard of but it will be yet another example of how deal-making and opportunism often trump people’s mandates in Indian politics.
With the Congress offering to support a JD(S) government with H D Kumaraswamy as chief minister, the BJP is getting a taste of its own medicine (remember Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya?). It’s not necessary that the single largest party gets to form the government in case of a hung verdict. A combination of parties that has the numbers can legally stake claim.
But to let a party with less than one-fifth of both the popular vote and seats to govern while the two with the maximum share of votes stay out will be making a mockery of the verdict. The people have spoken and it’s up to the parties to read the message. The governor must ensure the fractured mandate doesn’t end up being a stage for a messy political drama.