India court allows BJP to form Karnataka govt despite lacking majority

NEW DELHI: A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party was sworn in as chief minister of a key southern Indian state yesterday despite lacking a majority, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.

Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the biggest winner in the Karnataka state election but fell short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival, the Congress party.

The Congress, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday's election, tried to stop the BJP's B.S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by stitching up a last-minute coalition with a smaller regional party.

The BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party. State governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave it 15 days to prove it has a majority, prompting the Congress to go to court.

Following a three-hour hearing that began around midnight, the Supreme Court rejected the Congress claim that it already had a majority by joining hands with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party.

The BJP won 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, nine short of a majority. Congress fell to 78 seats from 122 in the previous election. The Janata Dal won 37 seats.

The Congress and Janata Dal claim to have the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their members to switch sides.

Janata Dal leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the BJP had offered US$15 million (S$20 million) each to as many as 32 lawmakers. The BJP denies the claims. - AFP