In electoral politics, especially in the case of voters throwing up a hung assembly, the floor test becomes sacrosanct. Out of 222 Assembly seats in Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to win 104 constituencies and stake a claim to form a government as a single largest party with the possible support of other MLAs.

However, no party has the required numbers to form a government on its own for any party would need at least the magical number of 112 or more to do so.

The Congress is expected to win 78 Assembly segments followed by the Janata Dal (Secular), headed by former India Prime Minister Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda, which may secure between 38 to 40 Assembly seats.

With a possible post-poll alliance, Congress and the JD (S) together can spring up a surprise to keep the BJP out.

Will Ghulam Nabi Azad, senior Congress leader from Jammu and Kashmir, prove a key negotiator to convince the JD (S) to form an alliance in the southern Indian state of Karnataka to save Congress’ sinking ship there?

With bitter experiences in Goa, Meghalaya and Manipur, the Congress is taking no chances in Karnataka.

Therefore, the party has airlifted its top gun Azad to avoid a repeat of the Goa and Manipur fiascoes where the party did not succeed to form governments despite emerging as the largest party.

A day before the election results, the Congress party sent Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot to Karnataka. The party wants a ‘BJP mukt’ (BJP free) government there after its failure to retain power in Meghalaya not so long ago.

Quoting sources, media reports have said that Azad has held parleys with Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddharamaiah besides other leaders.

According to media channels, the Congress party has already offered the chief ministerial post to JD(S)’s senior leader HD Kumaraswamy.

This is obviously being done with the aim to not allow the BJP to form government.

To make this happen, Azad’s role becomes critically important as a negotiator to settle electoral arithmetic.

Though the Congress had during its election campaign described JD (S) as “team B of the BJP”, the JD (S) is now saying that “there is no animosity between the Congress and the JD (S)”.

Will Kashmir’s Azad bring the much needed ‘Azadi’ for Congress in Karnataka to avoid horse trading by the BJP?

Some critics are raising ethical questions with regards to the possible Congress-JD(S) alliance, but the rightwing BJP has no argument after what it did in Meghalaya, Goa and Manipur.

The BJP is arguing that the Governor should first invite it as a single largest party and give it a chance to form a government, but the real test will come on the floor of the house. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa had reached the governor’s residence to stake his claim.

On its part, the Congress-JD(S) combine too has staked claim to form a government with the support of at least 118 MLAs.

Meanwhile, senior JD (S) leader Kumaraswamy confirmed that a post-poll alliance with the Congress is not impossible.

“The party’s leader HD Kumaraswamy has garnered support of Congress (78 MLAs) and two independent MLAs,” a claim made by the JD (S), adding that “the BJP had no role in deciding how JD(S) conducted its affairs. This is not Manipur.”

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of key Indian state of West Bengal, in a tweet congratulated the winners in the Karnataka Assembly election and said that had both Congress and JD(S) entered into an alliance, the results would have been “very different”.

“Congratulations to the winners of the Karnataka elections. For those who lost, fight back. If Congress had gone into an alliance with the JD(S), the result would have been different. Very different,” she wrote.

The BJP has adopted a policy of three M’s and three P’s (Money, Muscle and Mathematics, and Polarisation, Propaganda and Promises) to win the recent Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.

Three weeks time might prove enough for the BJP to indulge in horse trading, but will Kashmir’s Azad bring the much needed ‘Azadi’ for Congress in Karnataka to avoid horse trading by the BJP? It is a stern test for his negotiating skills. Only time will tell whether Azad’s skill set as a key negotiator will bear fruit of ‘Azadi’ for the Congress?


This post was published on May 15, 2018