Regional leader can’t be PM without Cong support: Gowda

Bengaluru: Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda Tuesday said regional parties alone cannot make someone Prime Minister without Congress backing and expressed “complete support” for Rahul Gandhi to be made Prime Minister after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In these polls, regional parties alone cannot make someone the Prime Minister without the support of the Congress, whose decision would be final, he said.

“In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, no regional parties in the country can make someone Prime Minister, leaving aside Rahul Gandhi. But Congress’ decision will be the final,” Gowda said. Speaking to reporters in Ballari, he said, “I’m saying directly. My complete support is for Rahul Gandhi to be made the Prime Minister.”

Gowda’s comments comes over a week after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said Congress has never stated “officially” that Rahul Gandhi should be the Prime Minister if an opposition alliance formed the next government.

He had insisted the Congress’ focus was on dislodging the BJP government and bringing in a “progressive” alternative. Chidambaram had told News 18 Tamil TV channel on 22 October in Chennai that the decision on who would be the prime minister in the event of an opposition alliance winning next year’s Lok Sabha poll would be taken by its constituents.

Gowda had recently said that the country’s secular parties would come together under the Congress leadership to defeat BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, dismissing suggestions that the grand alliance was losing its sheen.

The JDS is running a coalition government with Congress in Karnataka, which came into being after a post-poll arrangement between the two parties following a fractured verdict in the May assembly polls. Hitting out at the BJP for calling the Congress-JD(S) coalition as an “unholy alliance,” the former Prime Minister questioned the saffron party by asking whether the alliance was “holy” when they joined hands with the JD(S) faction headed by H D Kumaraswamy to form the government in 2006.

Gowda was in Ballari to campaign for the coalition candidate V S Ugrappa of the Congress for the 3 November by-polls to Ballari Lok Sabha constituency. Ugrappa, largely seen as an “outsider” to Ballari, is pitted against J Shantha of the BJP.

Shantha is the sister ofBJP leader B Sriramulu, considered a close confidante of mining baron G Janardhana Reddy. By-polls for three Lok Sabha constituencies – Shivamogga, Ballari and Mandya and two assembly constituencies- Ramanagara and Jamkhandi, will take place on 3 November.

The counting of votes will be on 6 November. The ruling coalition partners Congress and JDS have decided to fight the by-polls unitedly against the BJP. Congress has fielded its candidates in Jamkhandi and Ballari and JD(S) in Shivamogga, Ramanagara and Mandya.