The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress courts Gowda to save govt

Hyderabad, Jan. 21: The Congress is exploring options to turn Deve Gowda around and rescue the coalition government in Karnataka.

Racing against the daunting odds in the state where Gowda’s son Kumaraswamy appears to hold the upper hand, the Congress is said to be negotiating with the former Prime Minister.

Sources said the parties involved are trying to work out a “package deal”.

Gowda apparently is keen on the vice-president’s post when Bhairon Singh Shekhawat completes his term this year. A Union cabinet berth for Gowda’s other son, Revanna, is also on the table.

The sources said the discussions are still at a preliminary stage and the outcome could go either way.

The Congress is reluctant to give a commitment on the vice-president’s post. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is from south India and if Gowda is made vice-president, it would lead to a “regional imbalance”, the party feels.

The Congress last-ditch bid is based on the premise that Kumaraswamy would not have deserted the coalition on his own and the son can be persuaded to support the government if the father intervenes.

The Congress’s decided on a conciliatory approach after it failed to make up its mind on whether the cabinet should recommend the dissolution of the Assembly if Dharam Singh loses the trial of strength on January 27.

Governor T.N. Chaturvedi has gone about his business by the book and the Centre, chastened by the Jharkhand and Bihar experiences, is not keen on risking another run-in with the courts.

For the record, Congress general secretary and spokesperson Ambika Soni said Sonia Gandhi could speak to Gowda after the AICC plenary ends on January 23.

“There is a possibility that after this session, the two leaders may speak to each other,” Ambika told a media conference in Hyderabad. After the crisis erupted, Sonia and Gowda have not spoken with each other. “Our effort will be to ensure that the mandate we got to form the government (in Karnataka) will be fulfilled for the rest of its term,” Ambika added.

Gowda, too, said he was open to talks with Sonia on defusing the crisis and was hopeful his son would come round.

After a meeting with party leaders in Bangalore, Gowda said: “If Sonia Gandhi has said she will talk to Deve Gowda, 100 per cent, I will meet her. No hesitation (in that). If there are small areas of differences, we will discuss. I never said I have closed the door.”

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