It's been a week that has kept politicians, psephologists, journalists, commentators, judges, lawyers, Supreme Court clerks and security guards at various resorts on their toes. It all started soon after counting for the Karnataka Assembly election started on Tuesday, 15 May 2018. Early leads painted a rosy picture for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Their jubiliation quickly transformed into a nightmare when, by late morning, it became clear that the party would fall short of a simple majority. The Congress high command's swift manouvering to support the Janata Dal-Secular or JD(S) triggered events that will go down in Indian history as an epic political battle.
Here's how the days unfolded.
Tuesday, 15 May 2018
- Counting for Karnataka Assembly election begins at 8.30am. Early trends show that the BJP is leading in 118 seats, clear of the 112 seats required for a simple majority.
- By late morning, BJP's leads begin to climb down even as leads for the Congress and JD(S) hold firm.
- By afternoon, it becomes clear that the BJP will end with 104 seats, the Congress with 78 and the JD(S) with 37.
- In the meantime, Congress president Rahul Gandhi gets in a meeting with mother Sonia and sister Priyanka in New Delhi. Soon after, news pours in that calls have been made and that the Congress is putting its weight behind JD(S) to support a government led by HD Kumaraswamy.
- Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot arrive at JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda's residence. By 3pm, Deve Gowda's son Kumaraswamy says their party accepts Congress support and that he will meet the governor to stake claim. The two parties together have 115 MLAs. With the addition of support from two independent candidates and a Bahujan Samajwadi Party MLA, the post-poll combine adds upto 118.
- The celebratory mood at BJP's Karnataka headquarters in Malleshwaram, Bengaluru comes to an abrupt stop. Chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa says the people voted for a change and that Congress is subverting the popular mandate through “backdoor” channels.
- The gates to Raj Bhavan are run over by members of the three parties. Siddaramaiah gives his resignation to governor Vajubhai Vala, a former Gujarat BJP president and minister.
- Later in the evening, Vala meets BS Yeddyurappa and BJP's HN Ananth Kumar at Raj Bhavan. BJP, being the single largest party, must be invited to form the government, the duo tell the governor and give him a letter of support by BJP MLAs.
- Next, the Congress' 77 MLAs descend on Raj Bhavan. The governor meets HD Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah. They submit letters of support from their respective party MLAs and stake claim to form the government.
- Governor Vala says he will wait until the Election Commission announces the final result and consult experts before deciding whom to invite.
- The day ends with BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Ministe Narendra Modi congratulating, from Delhi, the people of Karnataka and the state BJP unit for the election victory.
Wednesday, 16 May 2018
- The day starts with news of Congress MLA Anand Singh “missing” from the Congress camp.
- As the threat of poaching and defection looms, HD Kumaraswamy holds a press conference and alleges that JD(S) MLAs have been offered Rs 100 crore each to join the BJP. He adds that JD(S) will form a coalition government with the Congress.
- Congress sequesters its MLAs at Eagleton resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
- The BJP reiterates that being the single largest party, it'll form the government in Karnataka.
- Post 8pm, BJP MLAs claim that the governor has invited Yeddyurappa for a swearing-in ceremony the following morning and prove his party's majority in 15 days. There is no official word from Raj Bhavan.
- In Delhi, Congress member and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi approaches Supreme Court registry at around 10pm to file an “urgent” petition against Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala's decision. The petition is on behalf of Congress MLA G. Paremeshwara and Kumaraswamy. Chief Justice Dipak Misra constitues a three-judge bench comprising justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan to hear the matter. The Supreme Court is opened and hearing continues till the wee hours. The Bench allows Yeddurappa's swearing-in but stays the oath-taking for others. He also asks Yeddyurappa to furnish the letter he sent to the governor showing support from his MLAs. It sets aside the matter for further hearing on Friday, 18 May 2018.
Thursday, 17 May 2018
- Congress and JD(S) rank and file hold a sit-in protest outside the Vidhana Soudha before the swearing-in ceremony.
- BS Yeddyurappa is sworn-in as the 19th chief minister of Karnataka in a subdued ceremony. The 75-year-old says the party will prove its majority and that he will complete his five-year term. He doesn't explain how will the BJP make up for the shortfall.
- Later in the day, Yeddyurappa waives of farmer loans of upto Rs 1 lakh borrowed from nationalised banks. He also transfers a slew of police officers. He also seeks to nominate a member of the Anglo-Indian community as an MLA.
- Governor Vala's decision to invite the single largest party to prove majority has a cascading effect in Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur.
- Crying hoarse over the 15-day period given to Yeddyurappa, Congress and JD(S) attempt to take charter flights to whisk away their MLAs out of Bengaluru/Karnataka. The ATC doesn't clear the aircraft to take-off till late evening. Buses are brought into Eagleton and ShanriLa hotel and MLAs taken to Hyderabad, Kochi and Pondicherry in an overnight journey.
- HD Deve Gowda visits the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam ahead of his birthday on Friday.
Friday, 19 May 2018
- The Supreme Court bench assembles to hear Singhvi and fellow Congress member and lawyer Kapil Sibal on behalf of the Congress and JD(S). Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Attorney General KK Venugopal represent Yeddyurappa and the BJP.
- Rohatgi submits a letter showing BJP MLAs elect Yeddyurappa as their leader to the Bench and says that the party can prove its majority on the floor of the House. Singhvi and Sibal question the basis of the Karnataka governor's decision to invite the BJP ahead of the Congress-JD(S) combine.
- The Bench orders an immediate floor test, and sets it for Saturday, May 20 2018, at 4pm under adequate security measure for all MLAs by the Director-General of Police. It denies Rohatgi's request for a secret ballot. The Bench says the Yeddyurappa government cannot nominate an Anglo Indian Representative and also asks Rohatgi to direct the Yeddyurappa government that it cannot to take any major policy decisions.
- Governor Vala appoints 62-year-old KG Bopaiah, a five-time lawmaker, as pro-tem speaker for the floor test. Congress members says governor has gone against the rule-book by not appointing the most senior lawmaker in the assembly i.e. RV Deshpande, who is an eight-time lawmaker, as pro-tem speaker.