Not “Third Grade Citizens”: JDS Reminds Congress On Lok Sabha Seat Talks

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Seat-sharing is expected to be a litmus test for the Congress-JD(S) combine.

Bengaluru:

As Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) get down to hold talks for the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said his party should not be treated as "third grade citizens" and that both the partners adopt a "give and take policy" to put up a united fight against the BJP.

With the coalition partners expected to hold talks on the tricky seat-sharing issue amid pressure within the Congress not to cede much to Janata Dal (Secular), Mr Kumaraswamy stressed there should not be any "pettiness" on both sides.

Mr Kumaraswamy said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma was "fading" with growing anti-incumbency, and pitched for Congress president Rahul Gandhi for the top job while also admitting that there was a lack of consensus among anti-BJP parties on choosing Mr Gandhi.

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Mr Kumaraswamy, who has completed seven months in office, however downplayed reports of contradictions within the coalition and said he would overcome all the "bitterness" smoothly. "Both of us (Congress-JD(S)) should go together (in Lok Sabha polls) is our opinion. Because the reason behind forming this government (in Karnataka) is to stop the BJP from coming to power and improve the atmosphere in the country…" Mr Kumaraswamy said when asked whether the JD(S) would go it alone if seat-sharing talks fail.

He said after the formation of the coalition government in the southern state, a lot of changes had taken place in the country's political landscape, including BJP's downslide and Congress victory in some bypolls and assembly elections in three states. "…in my opinion if Congress loses its way and tries to move with overconfidence, what will happen they will understand, with their past political experience, I do not think they will forget them. "They should treat us respectfully. They should not treat us as third grade citizens. There should be give and take policy," Mr Kumaraswamy said.

The JD(S) has demanded 12 out of 28 seats for the Lok Sabha polls, to which the Congress has expressed its reservations. In the 2014 polls, BJP had won 17 seats in the state, Congress 9 and JD(S) 2 seats.

Seat-sharing is expected to be a litmus test for the Congress-JD(S) combine, mostly in the old Mysuru region constituencies, where the JD(S) is a dominant force in the Vokkaliga heartland and the Congress has its sitting MPs.

Reiterating that the coalition intend to face the Lok Sabha polls together, the Karnataka chief minister said leaders of both the parties are expected to discuss and come to a final decision later this month.

"There are 28 seats…they (Congress) should take two-thirds and give us one-third, this is what his feeling is, and mostly, I feel they will also agree," he said. Asked whether his party's demand for 12 seats was negotiable, Mr Kumaraswamy did not give a direct response. He however, said the two-third and one-third was the Congress' formula for the coalition.

Congress and JD(S) had bitterly fought the May 2018 assembly polls, but joined hands as the polls threw up a hung verdict.

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