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BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa speaks after staking claim to form the government in Karnataka

India unwrapped: Poll drama plays out in Karnataka; PNB fraud probe inches ahead

18 May, 2018

A week, they say, is a long time in politics. Events related to the Karnataka elections over the past week prove just that.

While several opinion and exit polls had predicted a hung assembly in the southern state, none had prepared the nation for the unprecedented events that were to follow.

The elections threw up a hung assembly, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the single-largest party with 104 seats and staking claim to form the government.

The BJP suffered a setback when the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), which secured 78 and 37 seats, respectively, stitched together a rather opportunistic post-poll alliance to form the government.

Claims and counter-claims followed and by Wednesday, the situation had descended into chaos, with each side claiming that the other was trying to poach their legislators. This forced the Congress and the JD(S) to herd their flock into a five-star resort just outside Bangalore.

But the spectacle of horse trading and the re-emergence of the infamous ‘resort politics’ were not what made the week unprecedented. What really did that was the fact that, perhaps for the first time, India’s Supreme Court heard an urgent appeal after midnight in a case not involving a death penalty.

The appeal, filed by the Congress and the JD(S), sought to stop the state governor’s decision to invite the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to take the oath of office.

However, in a two-hour hearing that lasted till day-break on Thursday, the court allowed the oath-taking ceremony to go ahead and asked Yeddyurappa to furnish signatures of support by Friday. Later, the court also asked Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the state assembly on Saturday.

The controversy did not end here. The Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal legislators in Goa, Manipur and Bihar demanded that the BJP-led or BJP-backed state governments in the states be dismissed, as the party had rode to power because of post-poll alliances.

Meanwhile, the BJP government at the Centre did seek to win some goodwill in Kashmir as it announced a unilateral but conditional ceasefire in the troubled valley during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan. The Kashmiri separatists and militant groups, however, rejected the offer. Soon after, Indian security forces came under attack and a bloody encounter ensued.

RCom’s troubles, PNB fraud
The past week was unprecedented not just for political reasons. The week also saw, for the first time, a company controlled by a businessman with an Ambani surname struggling to stave off bankruptcy.

The National Company Law Tribunal admitted three insolvency cases against Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Communications filed by telecom gear manufacturer Ericsson, which wants to recover Rs 1,150 crore from the debt-laden company. The bankruptcy petition has blocked, for now, RCom’s deal to sell its infrastructure assets to Reliance Jio, which is controlled by Anil’s elder brother Mukesh Ambani.

Yet, on Thursday, reports emerged that RCom and Ericsson had settled their claims, vaulting RCom’s stock by as much as 70%. Still, it remains unclear if the RCom-Ericsson skirmish has really ended.

RCom is not the only one battling the odds. State-run Punjab National Bank posted a record $2 billion loss for the January-March quarter, the biggest in Indian banking history, thanks to the fraud involving diamond merchant Nirav Modi.

Separately, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed charges against former bank chief Usha Ananthasubramanian and senior PNB officials. Ananthasubramanian, who is currently heading state-owned Allahabad Bank, was promptly divested off her executive powers.

The government also faced flak as state-run oil marketing companies Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum hiked fuel prices just two days after the Karnataka elections. Brokerages say this is not the end of the hikes and oil companies could jack prices up by as much as Rs 4 a litre in coming days to recoup their margins, following a 19-day hiatus in price hikes leading up to the Karnataka polls.

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India unwrapped: Poll drama plays out in Karnataka; PNB fraud probe inches ahead

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