Deft move: Rahul called Gowda, offered CM's post to HDK

Deft move: Rahul called Gowda, offered CM's post to HDK

Congress leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, Gulamnabi Azad and Siddaramaiah, having a word with JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy when they go to Raj Bhavan Bengaluru on Tuesday.

Anticipating a hung verdict, the top Congress leadership has tried to outwit the BJP at its own game by making some deft moves to reach out to the JD(S) to stop the saffron party from coming to power in Karnataka.

Keen to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing events in Goa and Manipur, where the Congress could not form government despite emerging as the single-largest party, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had rushed senior leaders Ashok Gehlot and Ghulam Nabi Azad to Bengaluru on Monday itself to hold negotiations with JD(S) leaders H D Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy.

Azad, a veteran Karnataka hand, had reached out to the JD(S) leadership over the weekend seeking its support to form the government in case the Congress fell short of numbers. The first indication that the ground was slipping beneath the Congress feet came when Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed his readiness to make way for a Dalit chief minister and other senior party leaders clearly saying that the chief minister would follow the high command’s order.

Congress leaders felt that the BJP would use Karnataka as a gateway to the south and make inroads in the region where it has a negligible presence currently – very much in a manner they spread their wings in the north-eastern region. The Congress also believes that its revival on the national level would begin from the south, a region where it does not want the BJP to expand.

Senior Congress leaders here approached UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for guidance early Tuesday morning, but she directed them to Rahul.

Congress sources said that it was Rahul, in consultation with the UPA chairperson, who decided to give up the claim to form the government and make an offer to Kumaraswamy to take over as chief minister.

As it emerged by Tuesday afternoon that the BJP may not cross the half-way mark, Rahul held a fresh round of discussions with Gehlot and Azad and then decided to give up claim to form the government.

It was the Congress president who made the crucial call to Deve Gowda offering support to Kumaraswamy as chief minister.

The announcement made by Azad and Siddaramaiah around 3 pm took the BJP by surprise as it had not anticipated such a quick response from the Congress to agree to even give up claim to form the government.