A DAY after BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa resigned as Karnataka Chief Minister, paving the way for a Congress-JD(S) government, Congress leader D K Shivakumar, considered the architect behind the operation to keep the alliance MLAs together, said he was a “strong opponent” of the JD(S), but had swallowed some “bitterness” since all opposition parties were uniting against the BJP.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Sunday, Shivakumar indicated that though the future of the alliance in Karnataka was fraught with challenges, both parties would work together to keep the BJP at bay, with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He said the Congress and JD(S) MLAs would remain in hotels in the city till the swearing-in on Wednesday and the trust vote after.
Asked about the challenges ahead, he said: “See, I am a strong opponent of the JD(S). But when Rahul Gandhi has taken a decision in the interest of the party, we have to swallow some bitterness. Individually, it does not hold. It is the collective country’s interest that is important.”
Shivakumar was among the state Congress leaders who were most vocal against the JD(S) and its leaders. But now, with the Congress and JD(S) in an alliance, he said, “What to do? Politics is an art of possibility. We should forget our individual issues.”
According to him, several opposition leaders have extended support to the Congress-JD(S) alliance, particularly with regard to the Lok Sabha elections next year. “Definitely (the alliance would have a bearing on the 2019 LS elections). On this issue, the entire opposition is united. Secular forces are united. National Conference, Chandrababu Naidu, TRS, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee… all of them called and extended their support,” he said.
“They want to be part of this big alliance and we are calling them. Already H D Kumaraswamy (JD-S leader and CM-designate) is in touch with them. Mr Gowda (H D Deve Gowda) is a smart player. He plays this game well,” he said.
Shivakumar also hinted that the two parties may even contest upcoming bypolls to assembly and Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka together. “In a day or two, we will come to an understanding and we will send a message. We will take a political call before the elections. We will have to give a message to keep the BJP out, our numbers are very important (in the Karnataka Assembly),” he said, adding that both these elections were big “challenges” for the Congress.
“Some discussions have already taken place. I do not want to reveal now. The party will announce (future alliances) at the right time,” he said. He emphasised the need to maintain discipline among grassroot workers and local leaders, particularly in the Old Mysuru region. “We want to keep the BJP out. While running a government, we cannot ask our workers to fight each other. They have been at odds for decades, we have to and we must convince them to work together,” he said.
Asked about the Congress’s performance in the elections, when its numbers dropped from 122 in 2013 to 78 last week, Shivakumar only said it was “destiny”. “Destiny went wrong. Some decisions, I do not want to elaborate or discuss this. We have failed. I admit that we have failed. We will sit together and discuss among ourselves and see that the problem will not happen in the future,” he said.
Shivakumar also said he had told the party leadership in Delhi that the Congress would perform badly in South Karnataka, where the JD(S) is the main contender. “Whether Congress expected (it) or not, I was expecting (it). I informed my party bosses in Delhi that this will happen. Once I was not declared as the PCC president, I knew this would happen,” he said.
According to him, Congress president Rahul Gandhi “triggered” the post-poll alliance with the JD(S). “We could not get a clear mandate for the Congress. Rahul Gandhi just triggered this entire operation. He gave a direction, plan A, plan B and plan C. If we win Karnataka with our own majority, what do we do; if we don’t win, what do we do; if the numbers are short, what we should do,” he said.
He quoted Rahul as saying that “If the numbers are right, go ahead, if the numbers are wrong, stay back, don’t bid or bargain for power”. Shivakumar said, “We want a secular government to keep the BJP out. A day before counting, he (Rahul) instructed Venugopal. Then he sent senior leaders who could act very fast (Ashok Gehlot and Ghulam Nabi Azad). They called and discussed with us.”
Meanwhile, ever since their return from Hyderabad, Congress MLAs have been staying at Hilton Embassy GolfLinks and JD(S) MLAs at Le Meridien. With tight security outside both hotels and access severely restricted, even guests at the hotels faced a difficult time entering and exiting the gates.