Karnataka election results: How the Congress succeeded in changing headlines

Outsmarted in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, Congress acted swiftly after Karnataka election results threw up a fractured verdict and announced support for JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy as the chief minister

india Updated: May 16, 2018 08:21 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karnataka Election results,bjp,congress
Janata Dal (S) leader H D Kumaraswamy and Congress leaders waiting to meet governor Vajubhai Vala after Karnataka Assembly Election 2018 results, in Bengaluru, on Tuesday. The Congress moved quickly in Karnataka when it realised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would end up as the single largest party, but without a clear majority.(PTI photo)

Slow to react in Goa , Manipur, and then Meghalaya, where it was the single largest party, yet ended up on the opposition benches, the Congress moved quickly in Karnataka when it realised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would end up as the single largest party, but without a clear majority.

By 11 in the morning, the Congress knew for sure that the BJP would fall short of the majority mark of 112; it immediately reached out to the Janata Dal (Secular), which until a few hours ago the party called a “B-team of the BJP”.

Two senior Congress leaders, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot, who were rushed to Bengaluru on Monday, swung into action and got into a huddle, a party leader familiar with the developments said.

Azad spoke to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and both of them agreed to a plan giving unconditional support to the JD(S) in forming a coalition government headed by HD Kumaraswamy, the only guaranteed way of getting that party on board, while, at the same time, preventing the BJP from forming another government.

“The priority was to prevent the BJP from forming the government and for that we were ready to give the leadership role to the JD(S),” the leader said, asking not to be identified.

Outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah, who was considered the only stumbling block in the entire plan, given his history with the JD(S), especially Kumaraswamy, was taken on board and informed about the high command’s decision.

“Siddaramaiah accepted. He knew the repercussions of vetoing the plan were bigger than any individual’s ego. It was a unanimous decision. We wanted to change tomorrow’s newspaper headlines and we succeeded in that. We had to stop the BJP at any cost,” said another Congress leader who was part of the deliberations and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Azad, who is known to share cordial relations with leaders across the political spectrum, then called up former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy. Azad also ensured Siddaramaiah’s presence when he and other senior Congress leaders went to meet Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy.

Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy later jointly addressed reporters outside the Raj Bhavan after meeting the Governor and staking their claim to forming the government.

Not content with that, the party also held a press conference in New Delhi, building its case for why the JD(S) and the Congress need to be invited to form the government.

Claiming that Goa, Manipur, and Meghalaya, where the BJP, despite not being the single largest party, nor having a pre-poll alliance, was invited to form the government as part of a post-poll alliance, are precedents, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala made a case for the JD(S)-Congress post-poll alliance to be invited to form the government.

He also cited extensively from the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Goa assembly case, where the bench told the Congress counsel that the “convention of inviting the single largest party” was subject to numbers.

First Published: May 15, 2018 21:18 IST