Karnataka election - a contest that no political party won

In any democracy, the most exciting part is the elections, and the announcement of the results.

Virtually the whole of yesterday, I spent tracking – on television and social media – the results of the election to the State Assembly in my State, Karnataka.

Most of the exit polls on the day of polling, on May 12, had predicted a hung Assembly (a House in which no single party gets a majority). And true to that, the election produced no winner yesterday.

The BJP, which was steadily picking up seats at the start of counting, finally stopped its march at 104 (112 is what the winner should get). Its tally however had improved substantially from 40, what it had got in the previous election five years ago.

The Congress, the party of the outgoing government, ended up in the 2nd place, with its tally down from 122 to 78.

The JD(S), a local party, came in third, with its tally down by two: 38 this time, against 40 five years ago.

Instability ahead

Elections around the world throw up such verdicts. And, what follows is usually a period when parties try to strike deals with one another to cobble the required numbers. (Just to cite a recent example, Germany got a government only last month, six months after elections.)

Here in Karnataka, there is a very interesting situation.

In the seats tally, the top spot is for the BJP which doesn't have the majority: they are 8 short. But the No 2 and the No 3 combined (an alliance that was formed by two parties that were opposing each other till yesterday) have a majority.

Why this is controversial

In such situations, it is not very clear in India's Constitution, whether the governor (the head of state) should call the single largest party or the single largest coalition (that too a post-poll alliance in this case) to explore the possibility of forming a government.

If the alliance was a pre-poll one, there would have been no controversy. The alliance would have emerged winner and formed the government.

If one were to look at precedents, there have been cases of both.

Those who are interested can read the following links:

Karnataka election results: For governor, no scripted path, only precedents and conventions (Hindustan Times)

With no clear rules for Governors in hung verdict, BJP & Congress cite precedents that suit them best (The Economic Times)

Karnataka election results: It's now over to governor's 'subjective judgment' (The Times of India)

Anyway, the quick alliance between two parties (the Congress and the JDS) that were till yesterday hurling barbs against each other, generated lots of mirth, with memes and jokes flooding social media platforms.

Who should be invited

Someone has to be invited to form a government. Right now, both the BJP (the winner) and alliance of Congress and JDS (the runners-up) are staking claim to form the government.

Logically looking at it, the mandate evidently was for the BJP. And my personal opinion is that it must be given the first shot at forming a viable government, and given not more than two days to prove their numbers in the Assembly.

If they fail, the let the post-poll coalition can be given the chance, and given not more than two days to prove their strength. This looks the most fair way.

Though the runners-up seem to have the numbers, as they claim, my objection to them being called in first is: one, they didn't contest polls jointly. So, their alliance, in order to claim the mandate, is not fair. Two, going by the sheer number of seats Congress and JDS got, they are way behind the BJP.

(This page is likely to get updated)

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