Karnataka Elections 2023: ‘Reaching out to none,’ says Congress chief Kharge on party being in touch with JDS

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge denied that his party had been in negotiations with the JDS after a leader claimed the party had decided whom to tie up with. file Photo.

New Delhi: Barely hours before the Karnataka assembly elections results were declared, the Congress has categorically denied reaching out to the HD Kumaraswamy-led JDS, amid emerging reports that the regional party may play a crucial role in the event of a hung assembly.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said his party would win a “thumping majority” and that it would decide its next move based on the numbers that the results are likely to throw up.

“The numbers will tell us what to do,” Kharge told television channels, questioned on the possibility of an “Operation Lotus” – the term used by the opposition to describe what they allege is the BJP’s strategy of gaining power by inducing MLAs to switch sides. “We will take a call after the results,” he said.

Kharge denied that his party had been in negotiations with the JDS after a leader claimed the party had decided whom to tie up with. “Nobody. We are reaching out to nobody,” Kharge reiterated.

Exit polls have predicted a majority for the Congress in the polls that took place on Wednesday. However, a fractured verdict has not been ruled out, which leads to the possibility of the JDS playing kingmaker. In 2018, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party but fell short of a majority. The Congress and JDS formed a coalition government, which crashed only 14 months later after mass defections to the BJP.

On Thursday, a JDS leader claimed that the party had received feelers from both the Congress and the BJP and that a decision had been taken, which set off fierce rumours about a possible BJP-JDS tie-up.

Tanveer Ahmed made the comment and not former chief minister Kumaraswamy, who was in Singapore. “The decision is done. It’s taken. We will announce it to the public when it is the right time,” Ahmed had said.

However, Karnataka JDS chief CM Ibrahim distanced himself and the party’s stand from Ahmed’s statement, saying “he is not our spokesperson”.

A large number of Congress leaders said they were confident of winning around 150 seats in the 224-member assembly in which 113 is the majority mark.

Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar said earlier that the Congress would form a government on its own and that he did not want to comment on the BJP tying up with the JDS.

“No talks between the JDS and BJP. We will form the government on our own. Let them talk. I don’t want to comment on their talk,” he said.

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