New Delhi Bureau

BJP fears that Kumaraswamy may change his mind

The Congress' core group went into a huddle at the Prime Minister's residence to take stock of the situation

NEW DELHI: As the countdown begins for the show of strength in the Karnataka Assembly on January 27, the Congress central leadership has made it clear that it is for the coalition partner in the State, the Janata Dal (Secular), to set its house in order and keep its flock together.

The eight days time given by Governor T.N. Chaturvedi to Chief Minister Dharam Singh to prove his majority has come as a breather to the Congress, which is fighting to keep its coalition government alive. But the Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the Governor's decision as a "constitutional error," as it has given time to Mr. Dharam Singh "to cobble up a majority rather than just prove his majority."

Congress leaders were quick to reject allegations that they had made a counter offer to the breakaway JD(S) group led by H.D. Kumaraswamy to wean him away from the BJP, with whose help and support he claimed the Chief Ministership on Wednesday when he called on the Governor. Within the Congress leadership, there is a view that favours the party sitting in the Opposition. Their contention is that the JD(S) is not an easy ally and the Congress can hope to gain from a BJP-JD(S) alliance.

The party's core group went into a huddle at the Prime Minister's residence on Thursday afternoon to take stock of the situation. General secretary in-charge of Karnataka A.K. Antony, who attended the meeting, said the party had not yet decided on its future course of action. Also, the Congress was taken by surprise since the JD(S) had joined hands with it after a bitter fight in the 2004 Assembly elections to keep the BJP out. "That a dominant group of the JD(S) should tie up with the BJP was unexpected."

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the Supreme Court, in the recent Jharkhand case, had ruled in favour of three days time to be given for proving a majority.

"In the Karnataka case, where the Assembly is already in session, even three days are not required, one or two days would have sufficed," he said. "Raj Bhavans are not there to give time to help any party cobble a majority but to prove a majority." Another senior leader Pramod Mahajan felt that "24 to 72 hours would have sufficed."

BJP's worries

Asked whether the BJP was worried that the new-found bonhomie between the party and Mr. Kumaraswamy's group could evaporate into thin air by January 27, Mr. Jaitley said he was confident that the new political understanding would last and an alternative stable government would emerge.

However, some of Mr. Jaitley's party colleagues were not so sure as they openly expressed fears that Mr. Kumaraswamy may change his mind if offered the Chief Minister's position by the Congress.

"He will then get the Chief Minister's position without sacrificing his relationship with his father [the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who is opposing any alliance with the BJP]," a party leader said.

BJP leaders were also clearly disappointed with Mr. Chaturvedi whom they had expected to act keeping the party's interest in mind since he was a member of its national executive committee before getting the gubernatorial assignment.