Key opposition leaders to make a beeline for Karnataka swearing-in

JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy
Several prominent Opposition leaders and chief ministers on Monday confirmed that they would attend the swearing-in ceremony of Janata Dal (Secular)’s H D Kumaraswamy as Karnataka chief minister in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

However, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah cried foul, saying that the JD(S)-Congress move to form the government will be a “betrayal” of the people’s mandate.

Shah also trashed the opposition unity in Bengaluru and the proposed alliance of opposition parties against the Narendra Modi-led government for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.  He said these parties had fought against the BJP in 2014, and everybody knows what had happened then.

The BJP chief said his party would have formed the government if the two parties had not kept their legislators “locked in hotels” undemocratically. He said the people would have told JD (S) legislators that their vote was against the Congress.

Kumaraswamy met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi here in the evening. The meeting was held at Rahul’s residence. The Congress chief later tweeted that he will be attending the oath-taking ceremony.

Modalities of the JD(S)-Congress alliance will be worked out at a meeting between Kumaraswamy and Congress leader KC Venugopal in Bengaluru on Tuesday. The two will discuss whether the alliance should have one or two deputy chief ministers. G Parameshwara, the Dalit face of the Congress party in Karnataka, is being tipped as one of the deputy chief ministers. According to sources, the Congress could get 20 ministerial berths and the JD (S) 14.

Kumaraswamy also met Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati here. The BSP was an ally of the JD(S) in Karnataka, and won a seat. The two discussed whether BSP legislator N Mahesh should get a cabinet berth. Mayawati is set to travel to Bengaluru to attend Kumaraswamy’s oath-taking ceremony.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also confirmed his attendance after Kumaraswamy invited him, as did Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury will also be present at the event. Others who already confirmed attendance are West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu.

The Congress and BJP continued to trade charges on the morality, or the lack of it, of a Congress-JD (S) government in Karnataka.

Congress leader Anand Sharma accused the BJP of “misusing” central agencies, including the Income Tax Department, to harass Congress candidates and their families. The BJP chief said the I-T raids unearthed unaccounted money, including in former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s constituency Badami.

To a question on the skyrocketing fuel prices, Shah said, “I understand your agenda. But today, I will answer questions only on Karnataka.” Shah said it was ironical that after Karnataka, the Congress has started having faith in constitutional bodies like the Supreme Court, Election Commission and has no problems with electronic voting machines, or EVMs.

Sharma said that the Congress might not have won, but the mandate is for a coalition government. He said the Congress increased its vote share, and its share along with the JD (S) is nearly 57 per cent and BJP's is 36.2 per cent.

The BJP chief said the Karnataka mandate was against the Congress. Pointing to the Facebook post of a Congress legislator, Shah said the audio clips of BJP leaders purportedly trying to bribe Congress MLAs were fake.

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