The talks between the Congress and JD(S) to find some kind of a partnership aimed at defeating the ruling BJP in the contest for the fourth seat in the June 10 Rajya Sabha polls from Karnataka seems to have reached a deadlock, with both parties firmly sticking to their stand as of now.
JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy had made an offer to trade second preference votes with the Congress but the main opposition party on Wednesday made it clear to the regional party that it was now time for it to return the favour, pointing out that former prime minister H D Deve Gowda got elected to Rajya Sabha last time with its support in June 2020.
Six candidates are in the fray for the Rajya Sabha poll to four seats from Karnataka, necessitating a heated contest for the fourth seat.
Despite not having the adequate number of votes to win the fourth seat from the state Assembly, all the three political parties in the state — BJP, Congress and JD(S) — have fielded candidates for the seat, forcing an election.
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”If Congress really wants to defeat the BJP, we have already made an offer of transferring second preferential votes to each other. What else can I do? I had said let’s forget all old things and begin a new chapter if you want to defeat the BJP. I have made an open offer, I’m ready for everything for the sake of Karnataka,” Kumaraswamy told reporters.
Whether to accept the offer or not is left for the Congress leadership, he further said, adding that AICC General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala had communicated that he would send some leader for talks, but no one has come so far.
”There is still time, it is not over, a clear picture may emerge by tomorrow afternoon,” he said, as he alleged that only Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah is against the offer, and ruled out possibility of retiring the JD(S) candidate from the contest.
The six candidates in the fray for Rajya Sabha polls from the state are — Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, actor-politician Jaggesh and outgoing MLC Lehar Singh Siroya from the BJP, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh and state general secretary Mansoor Ali Khan from the Congress, and former MP D Kupendra Reddy from the JD(S).
Speaking to reporters in Haveri, Siddaramaiah, noting that Congress had first fielded its second candidate (Khan), asked the JD(S) to retire its candidate and make its MLAs to vote in favour of his party candidate.
”We had not fielded a candidate, when Deve Gowda had contested for RS last time (2020). We also made Kumaraswamy the chief minister. Now, support us if you really want to defeat the BJP,” he said, adding that if JD(S) wanted to defeat BJP, they should not have fielded a candidate after Congress fielded one for the fourth seat.
Countering Siddaramaiah’s claims of supporting Deve Gowda, Kumaraswamy said it was the then chief minister B S Yediyurappa who contacted him first and conveyed the BJP high command’s decision not to field a candidate against his father, as they wanted the former PM in the Upper House of Parliament.
Also, veteran Congress and now Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge had made it clear that he would not contest if his party fields a second candidate against Gowda, he said. ”Siddaramaiah or D K Shivakumar had no role in supporting Gowda…,” the former CM said.
Though state Congress chief D K Shivakumar expressed happiness about Kumaraswamy’s offer to ”start afresh” with his party, he however asked the regional party to vote for his party’s second candidate Khan.
”Our AICC General Secretary has made a request to you (JDS) and accordingly retire your candidate from the fray and vote in favour of our candidate. We have done it in the past. We desire good for them (JDS) in the future,” he said.
Interestingly reacting to Kumaraswamy’s offer, Shivakumar earlier in the day had said that he was just a karyakarta and only the party high command can take a decision on such things.
This cryptic statement made by the KPCC chief was seen within a context amid rumours that Siddaramaiah, with whom Shivakumar is engaged in a turf war for the CM post in case Congress wins in the next assembly polls, had a role in Khan being fielded as the second candidate without consulting him.
The Congress did not withdraw its second candidate Khan from the fray and issued a whip to all its MLAs asking them to vote for the party’s candidates.
A candidate needs the support of 45 MLAs to win, and based on their strength in the Legislative Assembly, the BJP can win two seats and the Congress one.
After getting two Rajya Sabha candidates (Sitharaman and Jaggesh) elected on its own strength in the Assembly, the BJP will be left with an additional 32 MLAs votes.
The Congress will be left with 24 MLAs votes after electing Jairam Ramesh, while the JD(S) has only 32 MLAs, which is not sufficient to win a seat. Counting of votes will take place on June 10 at 5 pm, which is after the polling hours.
Official sources said, as there are three candidates for the fourth seat and none of them have adequate number of votes to win, a situation may arise where the second and third preferential votes may have to be counted if necessary.
Speaking to reporters in Mysuru, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the BJP has sufficient votes to win all the three seats it is contesting.
He said, ”There is no offer from BJP to anyone and the party can win on its own votes. We have nothing to do with Congress and JD(S)’ offer game.” The BJP which held its Legislature Party meet on Wednesday night under the leadership of Bommai and state President Nalin Kumar Kateel issued a whip to its MLAs asking them to vote for party candidates, sources said, adding that it has tasked three ministers — R Ashoka, V Sunil Kumar and B C Nagesh — to oversee the voting process.