Bengaluru: Amid intense jockeying for power in Karnataka, the JD(S)-Congress combine’s chief ministerial candidate H.D. Kumaraswamy on Wednesday claimed the BJP offered his MLAs Rs1 billion (Dh54 million) in bribes to break ranks and back the BJP in forming a government, a charge rejected by the saffron party.
A day after Karnataka delivered a split verdict in the Assembly polls, and the rival camps intensified efforts to outmanoeuvre each other in the race for forming the government, Kumaraswamy, who was elected the JD(S) legislature party leader, dropped the Rs1 billion bribe bombshell.
“Our MLAs were offered Rs1 billion by the BJP to break away. I want to know whether this is black or white money,” he told a press conference.
“The JD(S)-Congress combine has 116 MLAs [including JD(S) pre-poll ally the BSP]. The BJP is trying to misuse its power being at the Centre and form its government through horse-trading,” he said.
Kumaraswamy said though which party to invite first is the prerogative of the governor, “without the numbers how can they (BJP) form the government”.
Replying to a question, he rejected outright the possibility of forming a coalition government with the BJP.
“I am going to meet the governor with the state Congress president and formally stake claim to form the government,” he said.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar promptly dismissed the JD(S) charge, calling it “imaginary”.
“This [talk of] Rs1 billion, Rs2 billion is imaginary. The BJP is not doing this. We are not in the habit of practising horse-trading. This is the kind of politics JD(S) and Congress do. We are going by the rule book and we will form the government,” Javadekar said.
The allegation was, however, repeated by outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah, who accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of encouraging horse-trading so the BJP returned to power.
“Narendra Modi is encouraging horse-trading. The governor has to give (the first) opportunity (for forming the government) to us,” he told reporters.
When asked about reports that some of the 78 newly elected Congress MLAs had skipped today’s meeting of its legislature party, he said, “We are all united”.
D.K. Shivakumar, the resourceful minister in the Siddaramaiah government who had hosted party lawmakers from Gujarat at a resort in Karnataka to prevent “poaching” by the BJP ahead of Rajya Sabha elections in that state, also claimed two MLAs who were reportedly missing were with the Congress.
“Nagendra and Anand Singh are in touch with us. All 78 MLAs are together. If we are not, people will beat us,” he told TV channel India Today.
The newly elected MLAs of the BJP, which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 224-member House, chose B S Yeddyurappa as their leader.
Immediately thereafter, Yeddyurappa made a dash for Raj Bhavan and staked claim to form the government.
“I requested Governor Vajubhai Vala to allow me to take oath as early as possible. We are 100 per cent confident that he will take a decision immediately,” he later told journalists.
Kumaraswamy, who has emerged the dark horse in the three-horse race with just 37 MLAs, was formally elected the leader of the JD(S) legislature party.
He said the Congress had extended unconditional support to the JD(S) for forming the government and “we will provide a stable rule for full five years”.
Meanwhile, the newly elected Congress MLAs also met to discuss the strategy for government formation.
“We exchanged views on our strategy for forming the government,” a party leader said after the meeting, and added the issue of electing the new leader of the Congress Legislature Party was not discussed.