Karnataka at crossroads - where to next?

Karnataka at crossroads - where to next?

With the resignation of 15 MLAs from the Assembly, Karnataka is stuck in limbo.

As the State awaits the floor test, hoping that it will close this unending drama, the political thriller continues to witness new twists every passing day. While we wait, we take a look at possible outcomes of Thursday's trust vote for the HD Kumaraswamy coalition government.

Acceptance of resignation:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to fix a deadline for the Assembly Speaker to decide on the resignations of the rebel MLAs.

It also said that the MLAs "ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House," absolving them of the party whip issued by the Congress and the JD(S) that had asked the MLAs to attend the proceedings. This means that they can skip the trust vote without fear of disqualification for defection.

What does that mean?

The strength of the 224-member Assembly taking part in the floor test will be watered down, bringing down the majority as the mark is counted based on those who are present and voting.

The MLAs face the larger threat of disqualification under the anti-defection law, which may bar them from joining an alternative government immediately, something that the Congress has been pushing for. If the resignation of the MLAs are accepted without them being disqualified by Speaker Ramesh Kumar, they'll be left with one choice: return with re-election.

Even in that case, if there are by-polls conducted and the disgruntled MLAs hypothetically fight them on the BJP ticket, it would only end up strengthening the BJP's position in the House.

However, disqualification proceedings are unlikely to be completed within the short time before the crucial trust vote.

Rejection of resignation:

If Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar ends up rejecting the resignations and the MLAs end up having to vote, they might end up cross-voting, albeit at the risk of attracting provisions of the anti-defection law, and it will spell doom for the Congress-JD(S) coalition. The latter seems unlikely following the SC's order on Wednesday.

Who may get floored in the floor test?

Kumaraswamy’s tally in the Assembly has been reduced from 119 to 102 (15 Congress-JD(S) MLAs plus two independents withdrawing support). With the support of the independents, the BJP’s tally stands at 107.

Assuming that the rebel MLAs won't take part in Thursday's floor test, the majority will drop down to somewhere around 105. The Congress-JD(S) coalition will have to score more than the BJP to stop the government from falling.

If Kumaraswamy wins the trust vote somehow, the status quo will be maintained with the coalition making a miraculous escape. The probability of cross-voting could further weaken the coalition's already dwindling numbers.

A loss would mean the end of round two of the Congress-JD(S) coalition in the State. Kumaraswamy would have to dissolve the government, resign and make way for a new government.

The BJP would then become the single-largest party in the Assembly and would be called to form the government.

If the BJP, hypothetically, declines the offer, the State would be plunged into a deeper political mess with the imposition of President's Rule. What would then follow is a fresh round of elections.

While the Congress' Siddaramaiah exuded confidence that they had the numbers to win the trust vote, the BJP's BS Yeddyurappa has been calling for Kumaraswamy's resignation, claiming that he's already lost his mandate.

All eyes will be set on the Vidhana Soudha Thursday for the final verdict.