JD-S sets terms, BJP says deal non-negotiable


Bangalore/New Delhi : The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) Thursday said the Bharatiya Janata Party could not be trusted to maintain peace and communal harmony in Karnataka even as the BJP maintained their 20-month-old power transfer deal was not negotiable.

Support TwoCircles

Chief Minister H.D Kumaraswamy met Governor Rameshwar Thakur in the evening to inform him of the political developments in the wake of all 17 BJP ministers submitting their resignations to him Tuesday to force him to transfer power to the BJP.

Kumaraswamy mounted pressure on the ruling partner by convening a cabinet meeting Friday though all 17 BJP ministers have resigned and said they would not attend the meeting.

At the cabinet meeting, Kumaraswamy could decide to call an assembly session to seek a trust vote.

The BJP reacted with surprise and anger. “It is a very strange development,” BJP state spokesperson S. Suresh Kumar told IANS on Kumaraswamy’s decision to hold a cabinet meeting when half of his ministers have given their resignation letters to him.

Earlier in the day, Kumaraswamy and his father, JD-S president H.D. Deve Gowda, in their speeches at a party meeting in Bangalore questioned the BJP for its Hindutva ideology and asked if it would maintain communal harmony in the state if handed over power.

At the party meeting, Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy referred to the burning down of a Tamil Nadu state bus in Bangalore last month after the neighbouring state’s Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi made controversial remarks against Hindu god Rama.

Two people were charred to death in the incident. The same night the residence of Karunanidhi’s daughter Tamiz Selvi in Bangalore was attacked by a group of about 20 youths.

“Can the BJP be trusted to maintain peace and communal harmony if power is handed over to them?” Kumaraswamy asked.

“I can’t be sure that the BJP will protect the interests of 5.5 crore (55 million) people in the state,” he told reporters before his party’s meet.

“If I do not keep my word on power transfer, it is no big deal. I am willing to be called a ‘vachanabrashta’ (one who did not honour his word) for the sake of people and the party,” Kumaraswamy told the meeting.

To justify his stance, he made a reference to former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh of the BJP during whose regime the Babri Masjid was brought down in the northern state in 1992.

“The word I gave was between individuals. Kalyan Singh gave an affidavit in the Supreme Court on behalf of 100 crore (1 billion) Indians. Within 48 hours of the affidavit, Babri Masjid was brought down,” he said, mocking the BJP’s demand that he keep his word.

Assuring him that he was not breaking his word, his father H.D. Deve Gowda said: “Kumaraswamy’s only intention is to strengthen the JD-S. Taking decision for it does not mean not honouring one’s word.”

Kumaraswamy told reporters: “When grave allegations of corruption and criminal charges were levelled against me (by local BJP leaders), the BJP leadership chose to take it lightly.

“Should I hand over power to the BJP whose leaders have vowed to perform last rites of my family and my party? The mutual trust between the parties has ceased to exist now. Power transfer is not a child’s play. The BJP never created a cordial atmosphere for such an exercise to happen,” he said.

On staying in power with support from the Congress, Kumaraswamy said there was nothing that was not possible in politics. “Politics is nothing but opportunities and possibilities,” he said.

Their speeches were telecast live by Kannada language TV channels, and seen by the BJP as a shrewd move to get the first-mover advantage as the possibility of early assembly elections looms large.

Talking to reporters before the party meet, Kumaraswamy said the JD-S was ready to face the polls if his government fell.

The emboldened stance the party adopted in the evening could reduce Saturday’s meeting between Deve Gowda and BJP chief Rajnath Singh in New Delhi to a mere formality.

Deve Gowda earlier told his party’s state executive committee meeting in Bangalore that he proposed to have “frank discussions” with Singh one last time. “If there is an understanding, it is fine. Otherwise, each party will have a right to take its own decision.”

The BJP, on its part, stated that there could be no negotiations on the power sharing agreement and its chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka, though it deferred any decision on the stand-off.

Party vice-president Yashwant Sinha told reporters in New Delhi after a meeting of the BJP parliamentary board: “The parliamentary board will meet again Saturday morning. We have postponed taking any decision as the JD-S president called the BJP president and conveyed that he would have talks with him after the meeting of his party’s political affairs committee Friday.”

Sinha reiterated, “The arrangement arrived at 20 months ago between the two parties has to be implemented. This is non-negotiable. The parliamentary board has emphasised that Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa is our chief ministerial candidate. This is also non-negotiable.”