Bangalore: As results of 208 urban local bodies (ULB) in Karnataka — including seven city corporations — began to come in, the transfer of power between embattled coalition partners Janata Dal (Secular) and the Bharatiya Janata Party scheduled for 3 October 2007 has became more ticklish.
With JD(S) doing better than expected, winning 1044 seats when reports last came in, it was in a neck-to-neck race with the Congress which has bagged around 1111 seats. BJP was trailing way behind with 700 plus seats. If the trend holds on— as it seems likely — the bargaining on power transfer is expected to become much tougher.
This is because JD(S) was until now considered a rural based party,but now it can claim to have urban support as well. As the trends started trickling in, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy immediately declared, “We were rated as a rural based party. Now urban voters have also expressed their trust in my party,” according to PTI.
The poor performance of the BJP — whose support base was seen as urban centric — will provide more ammunition to JD(S) president and fomer prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda, who wants to retain his son as the chief minister. It may be recalled that in the elections held in May 2004 had thrown up a hung assembly with BJP emerging as the single largest party with 79 seats. The JD(S) with 58 seats had joined the Congress (65 seats) to form a coalition government with N. Dharam Singh as chief minister. But this government was toppled after 20 months when H. D. Kumaraswamy, the youngest son of Deve Gowda, joined hands with the BJP.
The new coalition partners had agreed that each would serve a 20-month term at the helm and transfer of power is due on 3 October. Deputy chief minister and BJP legislature party leader B. S. Yediurappa is hoping to become the first saffron chief minister in South India.
However the JD(S) is reluctant to transfer power citing a number of reasons. The latest being that BJP MLA and tourism minster B S Sriramulu filing a police complaint accusing the chief minister of plotting to murder him. Both H. D. Deve Gowda and his son have expressed outrage at the allegation.
The BJP flew in senior leader and former union finance minister Yashwant Sinha — who has a good rapport with the former prime minister, to smoothen the process transfer of power. On Friday, Sinha even obtained the resignation of Sriramulu. While JD(S) is demanding action against Sriramulu, BJP does not want to take any steps because he represents the interests of the mining lobby which is a key financer to the party.
At the same time, the BJP wants to retain the state government, as it will be a key source of funds along with Madhya Pradesh for the forthcoming Gujarat elections.
Though Gowda played hard to get and went off on a pilgrimage to Srirangam, Sinha was finally able to meet him on Sunday evening. The ULB results would provide even more bargaining power to the wily former prime minister, even as he declared that a legislature party meeting has been called tomorrow to take a final decision on transfer of power.