Bangalore, May 15 : As Karnataka appeared headed for a hung Assembly on Tuesday with the Bharatiya Janata Party set to emerge as the single largest party but falling short of a majority, the Congress on Tuesday sprang a surprise, declaring it will back the also-ran Janata Dal (Secular) in forming the government.
Seeking to throw a spanner in the BJP's works as the party appeared tantalisingly close to the magic figure of 112, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced Congress's support to the JD(S).
Emerging from a huddle with senior Congress leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Siddaramaiah said, ”We have decided that the Congress will extend support to the JD(S) to form the government. That's the best way to keep the BJP out (of power).”
Azad said a Congress delegation will meet Governor Vajubhai Vala in the evening.
The Congress has won 48 of the 222 seats polling for which was held, while it is leading in 30 others. The JD(S) has won 23 constitutiencies and its candidates are ahead of their rivals in 14. If the number seats the two parties have won and where they are leading is taken into account, they could together end up with 115 seats, three more than the magic figure of 112.
The BJP, on the other hand, has won 78 seats and is leading in 26, a total of 104.
Though the BJP initially looked set to sail through and win a simple majority in the 224-member Assembly, as the day progressed and more trends and results started pouring in, an outright victory seemed improbable.
However, even as the BJP was set to emerge as the single largest party and its workers began celebrating the victory on the streets of Bangalore and New Delhi, came the sudden twist in the tale with the Congress's announcement.
Barely hours before the shock, BJP leaders in the national capital were hailing the poll results as an endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda and claiming that people had rejected the divisive, toxic and negative politics of the Congress.
The role of Governor Vajubhai Bala, a former BJP veteran, would be critical once the Congress formally extends support to the JD(S).
According to the usual practice, the governor calls the leader of the single largest party or pre-poll alliance to form the government, and in the event of a hung Assembly, asks him to prove the majority on the floor of the House.
Since the Congress and JD(S) did not have a pre-poll alliance, it seems unlikely that he would invite the leader of the JD(S) legislature group to form the government.
The sudden development nonetheless poured cold water on the BJP's plans to form its government in the large southern state, which its president Amit Shah called the ”gateway to south”, for a second time.
BJP's chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyurappa, his close aide and MP Shobha Karndlaje had said earlier, was to fly to New Delhi to finalise the date for his swearing-in after consulting the party's national leadership. It is unclear now whether he would proceed to New Delhi given the state of flux in the state's politics.