Karnataka row thickens, parleys shift to Delhi


Bangalore : Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh stepped in Wednesday to save the Karnataka coalition, calling up his Janata Dal-Secular counterpart H.D. Deve Gowda, who, however, responded cautiously.

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“Our decision will depend on the one the JD-S national executive will take in Delhi on Oct 5,” Deve Gowda said after taking the telephone call from Rajnath Singh.

The 20-month-old coalition virtually fell apart Tuesday after 17 BJP ministers resigned to mount pressure on Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of Deve Gowda, to step down in favour of the BJP as per the February 2006 agreement between him and the state BJP leaders.

The BJP ministers’ resignation letters, submitted to Kumaraswamy, worsened the already strained ties between the ruling partners.

BJP vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu met senior JD-S leader and state Home and Law Minister M.P. Prakash in Bangalore as part of the BJP’s stepped-up efforts to pacify Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy.

Both Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy reacted angrily to the BJP’s insistence on the Oct 3 deadline for power transfer.

Kumaraswamy described the resignations “childish, done in haste”.

He said he would not resign until the JD-S national executive meeting in Delhi Friday takes a final decision.

Kumaraswamy dropped hints that JD-S was not averse to the Congress support to continue in power, saying: “It is both possible and not possible”.

He was responding to reporters’ queries on speculation that the Congress may extend outside support to his government to keep BJP away from getting its first chief minister in southern India.

Kumaraswamy met Deve Gowda for over 90 minutes to discuss the situation and chalk out next moves.

Deve Gowda called a meeting of his party leaders from districts in Bangalore Thursday to know their views on power transfer.

The BJP ministers stayed away from their offices Wednesday but Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, hoping to take over as chief minister, told reporters that he still had “100 percent faith in Kumaraswamy that he will hand over the reins to the BJP”.

The state’s main opposition Congress party said it was watching the situation and any decision on its strategy would be taken only if and when the BJP withdrew support to Kumaraswamy.

“As of now, the resignation letters have been given to Kumaraswamy and not to the governor,” a Congress leader noted.

Congress sources in New Delhi said the party’s stance would be decided after its president Sonia Gandhi returned from New York Thursday.

Rajnath Singh too noted in Delhi that BJP had not withdrawn support to the Kumaraswamy government.

“Resignations have been submitted in accordance with the agreement but support has not been withdrawn,” he told reporters.

Deve Gowda said clarity regarding power transfer would emerge only after the BJP parliamentary board decision followed by his party’s national executive in Delhi.

“Till Oct 6, there will not be any development on the (power transfer) issue,” he said.

“The issue is no longer before Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa. The national leadership of the two parties is seized of the matter and they will decide what is next,” Deve Gowda said.

Deve Gowda will reach Delhi Thursday night or Friday morning while state BJP chief D.V. Sadananda Gowda, national general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar and senior leader Yashwant Sinha reached the national capital Wednesday.

Yediyurappa said he would be in Delhi in time for the BJP parliamentary board meeting Thursday afternoon.

In Delhi, JD-S general secretary Kunwar Danish Ali took a tough stand and accused the BJP of not adhering to the “coalition dharma” over the last 20 months.

He said the BJP’s central leadership had stood as a mute spectator when the BJP leaders in Karnataka were involved in tarnishing the image of the chief minister and his father, former prime minister Deve Gowda.

“Where was their coalition dharma then?” he asked.