In the wake of the Supreme Court giving it an urgent midnight hearing on the Karnataka government formation, the Congress launched a coordinated move with other Opposition parties Thursday to win a symbolic battle of perception against the BJP. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi both spoke to H D Deve Gowda, and are reported to have been in touch with several Opposition leaders, even as demands to give single largest parties a chance to form governments were made in states such as Bihar, Goa and Manipur.
Sources said top Opposition leaders were in touch and discussing plans including meeting the President to submit a petition, organising joint protests, and possibly meeting in Bengaluru or Delhi. The Congress asked all state units to observe “Save Democracy Day” Friday, organise street protests, and directed state unit chiefs to submit petitions to Governors “urging the President of India to safeguard democratic principles and the sanctity of the Constitution”.
In a largely symbolic statement, the Congress announced it would meet the Governors in Goa and Manipur – where it could not form governments in spite of emerging the single largest party in elections last year – and stake claim afresh. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said his party and the Congress are the “single largest pre-poll block” in Bihar. “Why should we not be called to form the government in Bihar? Tomorrow, we will meet the Governor,” he said.
The demand is symbolic as the Opposition in any state, if it has the numbers, can move a trust motion to upstage the government.
In Panaji, Congress Legislature Party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar and state Congress chief Girish Chodankar said the party would stake claim Friday by submitting to Governor Mridula Sinha a formal letter with signatures of all 16 party legislators. Kavlekar said the Governor should follow the precedent set by her Karnataka counterpart and invite the single largest party to form the government “correcting her mistake of March 12, 2017”.
Chodankar said governors can’t have two sets of rules. “While in Karnataka the governor has invited the single largest party, in Goa the same precedent should be followed,” he said.
In Manipur, former CM Okram Ibobi Singh sought an appointment with the Governor Friday to demand dissolution of the present government. “[Last year] I had requested Governor Najma Heptullah to invite us to form the government as the single largest party. But she called the BJP with the logic that they had the numbers and were able to put together a majority,” Ibobi told The Indian Express. “Based on the development in Karnataka our demand is that the present government be dissolved and we be allowed to form the government.”
State Congress general secretary Manipur R K Imo Singh echoed: “If the single largest party has been called in Karnataka, why were we not given the opportunity?”
Congress sources said Sonia spoke to Deve Gowda for the first time since the Congress proposed support to a government headed by H D Kumaraswamy. In Kokata, CM Mamata Banerjee too compared Karnataka with Goa. “It is a constitutional crisis and tomorrow you will have to reply for that. The Governor’s is a respectable post and the Governor is our constitutional authority. A Governor is not our political guide and the Governor cannot decide based on personal choice to allow somebody to form the government and not allow somebody to form the government,” she said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told The Indian Express that Opposition parties are determined to make the BJP’s “brazen” attempt to capture power in Karnataka a national issue. “We will definitely do something in coordination with each other. There are various options before us,” he said.
Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who recently quit the BJP, sat on a dharna outside Rashtrapati Bhawan to protest the party forming government in Karnataka in an “unconstitutional manner.”
The Congress, meanwhile, continued its attack on Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala. Claiming that B S Yeddyurappa would be a “one-day chief minister”, Congress’s communication department chief Randeep Surjewala said Vala, who had “sacrificed his seat in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha in favour of Narendra Modi, has now sacrificed the Constitution and democracy for Modi.”
AICC general secretary and in-charge of organisation Ashok Gehlot wrote to state units to “reach out to all other democratic forces/civil society etc from all walks of life to lend support” to its campaign against the BJP.
With Esha Roy in Kolkata