Cong rushes Azad, Gehlot to Karnataka for counting day

Cong rushes Azad, Gehlot to Karnataka for counting day

Police personnel stand guard outside a counting centre after the Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018 in Bengaluru on Monday. PTI Photo

Keen to avoid a repeat of Goa and Manipur, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has deputed senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot to assist the party managers in Karnataka, where results of the elections are set to be declared on Tuesday.

While Congress leaders here exuded confidence about winning a comfortable majority, party strategists have worked out plans for scenarios where they may have to reach out to friends and like-minded outfits to put together the numbers required to form the government.

A section of the party believes that JD(S) may have a bearing on the outcome in Karnataka and the Congress may have to reach out to former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy to get past the halfway mark of 113 seats in the 224-member Assembly.

In such a scenario, the JD(S) may not like to back Siddaramaiah for a second term in office. Siddaramaiah had dumped the JD(S) for the Congress almost 12 years back.

Gandhi chaired a strategy session with senior leaders late on Sunday night and decided to depute Azad and Gehlot - both AICC general secretaries - to assist the party’s team in Karnataka in the tough negotiations that may be required in case Congress fell short of numbers.

The Congress has a number of seasoned leaders in the state who are working alongside AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and his team of young AICC secretaries. The experience of Azad and Gehlot is expected to strengthen the Congress team.

If the Congress is just short of the magic number of 113 – it will prefer to reach out to independents and party rebels who win.

The Congress may reach out to the JD(S) only if it has
a huge gap to fill. This explains Siddaramaiah’s remarks that he would make way for a Dalit chief minister if the need arises.

Despite emerging as the single-largest party in the Goa and Manipur Assembly elections last year, the BJP had managed to successfully woo regional leaders to stitch together a majority and form the government.