DAYS AFTER the Janata Dal (Secular) called off its pre-poll alliance with Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the latter announced on Thursday that it won’t contest the Karnataka polls in May, offering unconditional support to the Congress’ re-election campaign.
NCP’s general secretary D P Tripathi, who was in Mumbai, said on Thursday that the party’s move was a step towards building a coalition to defeat the BJP. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda’s JD(S) — seen as a contender in a three-legged race — had earlier stitched an alliance with the NCP, announcing its willingness to offer Pawar’s party five to seven seats. The NCP had contested six seats in the last Karnataka polls.
But earlier this month, the JD(S) had walked away from the pre-poll alliance, after Pawar participated in a Madhyavarti Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) programme in Belagavi. “If the BJP loses the polls, it would set the stage for it’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. We have decided not to contest the polls and unconditionally support the Congress. Last time, we had contested six seats and also offered support to three Independents,” Tripathi said.
To build a non-BJP coalition, the NCP leader also appeared to be extending an olive branch to BJP’s sulking ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena. “The Shiv Sena does not pose a danger to secularism,” Tripathi said. When asked if the NCP was open to joining hands with the Shiv Sena in future, he added: “Politics is pregnant with possibilities.” Tripathi also urged the Congress to expedite the sealing of a possible pre-poll pact for Maharashtra, which will witness Assembly polls in 2019.
The Congress and the NCP had parted ways just before the 2014 Assembly polls in the state, after the seat sharing formula between the two sides could not be finalised. While pitching for the entire Opposition to field a “common candidate” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019, Tripathi said: “There is no need to project anyone as a leader of the non-BJP alliance.”