Karnataka Drama: Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s Behind-The-Scenes Account
Congress leader and Senior Advocate Abhishek Singhvi leaves after a hearing in Karnataka government formation case, at Supreme Court in New Delhi, on May 18, 2018. (Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI)

Karnataka Drama: Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s Behind-The-Scenes Account

In the 40 hours between the Karnataka election results and the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to reduce the time given to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s BS Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on the floor of the state’s assembly, the Indian National Congress mounted a multi-pronged strategy to keep the BJP out of power. The Janata Dal (Secular) was approached, newly elected MLAs were gathered, and in Delhi the party’s legal strategy was given shape. Congress leader and Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi gave BloombergQuint’s Sanjay Pugalia a detailed account of all the events, as they unfolded.

Find A Plane To Charter

“I had planned to be outside Delhi on May 16. At that time, no one had thought that something would happen the day after the counting. All of this month, the Chandigarh airport has been completely shut, for commercial as well as charter flights. As I was alighting the Shatabdi train in Chandigarh, my phone started ringing incessantly. Most of the work happened on the phone. Instructions, and drafting of the petition was done – and meticulously so. But the draft of the petition that was made in advance said ‘call us first to form the government’. At that time, we weren’t sure who would be called. At 2 pm we found out that there’s a convenient airport at Pinjore, and an aircraft was arranged for. I wrapped up my work and got to the Pinjore airport by 3:30 pm.”

A Petition And A Press Conference

“Then, in Delhi, an important meeting was held. After that, I proceeded to a press conference with P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal. Along the way, I asked them to excuse me from the press conference. Two drafts of the petition were made between 8 pm and 10 pm. By 8:30-9 pm, we had figured that the Governor was going to call someone soon, and that won’t be us. So when that letter was released around 9:30 pm, the petition was revised again, perhaps for the third or fourth time.”

Also read: In Karnataka, Congress Template For 2019 Emerges

Supreme Court Opens After Midnight

“The fact that there was a late-night hearing was the BJP’s doing. When the governor makes an announcement at 9:30 pm, and then 30 seconds later, BS Yeddyurappa, who all along had been talking about taking oath at 12:30 pm, suddenly announces that he will do it at 9 am, the Supreme Court realised that the time for reviewing the petition, if it saw urgency in it, was at night.

Guessing Game, Staying Put Near The Court

“The amusing thing about it was, we didn't know when we'd be called by the court. What time the registrar will arrive from his residence, acknowledge the petition, go to the Chief Justice's residence, and then check with the other judges to convene the hearing. It was my idea that I should park myself in the Taj hotel coffee shop at 1 am, since I haven't lived in government accommodation for the last 12 years. By then, we found out that we'd been called, and I was able to reach well in time.”

Singvhi also spoke about how the events in Karnataka present a template for regional parties and the Congress to work together to defeat the BJP in the 2019 general elections. Watch the entire conversation here:

Also read: Karnataka Verdict: Kumaraswamy To Take Oath As Chief Minister On Wednesday

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