The Congress is even prepared to change the Chief Minister if the JDS was adamant on it, a source said.

 

The Congress has almost finalised a post-poll understanding with the JDS in Karnataka, where it fears coasting to power alone will be difficult, claimed reliable Delhi-based sources in the party. As per the sources, an “understanding” is almost on the cards, despite the Congress publicly displaying confidence of securing a simple majority on its own and dismissing H.D. Deve Gowda’s party as the BJP’s “Team B”.

Another source in the Congress told this newspaper that the party was prepared to make any kind of concessions to retain the state, including changing the Chief Minister if the JDS was adamant on it.

“The JDS and the Congress alliance is almost certain. As per our analysis, we may narrowly miss the majority mark, but our talks with the JDS have been fruitful. The BJP will not be able to return to power,” said the source.

“JDS will not go with BJP, that is certain. But from our side, we are also prepared for the worst situation. If the JDS indeed emerges as the kingmaker and demands a change in the CM face, we will prefer to placate it rather than lose the state,” the source quoted told this reporter.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, once in the JDS and considered Gowda’s protege, fell out with Gowda after the latter started promoting his son H.D. Kumaraswamy as his heir apparent. Siddaramaiah was expelled from the JDS in 2005.

The BJP, which appeared soft on the JDS only some time ago, has suddenly launched a sharp attack on its former ally.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a rally in Tumakuru on 5 May, had said that “If anyone is protecting the Congress, it is the JDS… Congress and JDS have a secret understanding… an understanding behind the curtains”. This was in contrast to his earlier overture to the party on 1 May, when he had told a crowd in Udupi that he had “respect” for H.D. Deve Gowda, and had described the former Karnataka Chief Minister as a “veteran”.

A source in the Congress said, “His (PM Modi) change of tone is understandable. They were also trying to get the JDS on their side, but the latter has decided to support us.”

Publicly, however, the Congress is maintaining it will be in a comfortable position to form the government on its own. “This situation does not arise at all. I am very confident that we will form the government on our own with a clear majority,” Chief Minister Sidarammaiah had told the media on 24 April, when asked to clear the air on a possible post-poll tie-up with the JDS.

Most surveys have predicted a hung Assembly in Karnataka, while giving an edge to incumbent Congress. As per the surveys, Congress might secure 90 to 101 seats, with the most conservative figure putting it at 85 seats in the 224 member Assembly. JDS is projected to win 30 to 40 seats, while the BJP anywhere between 78 to 95 seats.

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