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National News
Cong-JDS cabinet reposes faith in Kumaramaswamy after dismal show in LS polls
Bengaluru: Shaken by the rout of the ruling Congress-JDS combine in the Lok Sabha polls, the Karnataka cabinet Friday reposed its "faith and confidence" in the leadership of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, asserting that the coalition would continue. As the ruling alliance suffered a humiliating defeat with the BJP painting the entire state saffron, winning 25 of the 28 seats, the results are widely expected to have a bearing on the stability of the Kumaraswamy government.

As voices emerged in the Congress to end the alliance, blaming the JDS partnership for the party''s worst ever performance in the Lok Sabha polls, Kumaraswamy offered to resign when some senior Congress leaders met him last evening, top sources in the government said. However, they convinced him against it and requested him to continue as the head of the coalition government, while ensuring full cooperation. "It (resignation) is a closed chapter now," they said. The Chief Minister said he was "mentally ready" to resign if "we didn''t want him to lead the government", but he was cut short by Congress Ministers, who asked him to continue in the top post, a minister said after the cabinet meeting.

During the meeting, discussions largely focused on saving the coalition and continuing the government, amid worries of dissidence within and threats of "poaching" attempts by BJP. Kumaraswamy also is said to have spoken to AICC General Secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal over phone after the results and requested him to come down to the city for a meeting soon, to sort out differences in the coalition. "We have reposed faith and confidence in the leadership of Kumaraswamy ji as Chief Minister. This is the decision taken by all the Ministers today.... there is no instability to this government, it will continue," Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara told reporters, flanked by the Chief Minister and other cabinet colleagues.

Noting that the "informal" cabinet meeting called by the CM took stock of the situation after the Lok Sabha election results, he said "we discussed about it at length and this "referendum or mandate" is nationally for the government at the Centre and not for the state. "We will continue in the state and our coalition will continue under the leadership of Kumaraswamy ji, and all our MLAs are with us," Parameshwara said, as he accused the opposition BJP of trying to destabilise the government. "They (opposition) will not be successful and we will not allow them to succeed in destabilising the government."

Continuing his "boycott" of the media,Kumaraswamy did not utter a word though he sat along with cabinet colleagues throughout,as the Deputy CM briefed about the cabinet meeting. Kumaraswamy had recently declared he was ''boycotting'' the media, apparently upset over the coverage of the Mandya Lok Sabha polls, where his son Nikhil contestedand lost. Meanwhile,the Chief Minister also reportedly spoke to CLP leader and coalition coordination committee chief Siddaramaiah over phone, ahead of the informal cabinet meeting,during which the latter assured him support to continue the government. In the evening, Kumaraswamy met Siddaramaiah at hishome and discussed poll results and coalition relateddevelopments.

Congress Ministers, ahead of the cabinet meeting, met for breakfast, during which they are said to have discussed the need to save the coalition for both parties, as also about the defeat in Lok Sabha polls. Congress is likely to convene the CLP meeting next week to discuss the same, and also with an intention to keep its flock together amid worries of dissidence and poaching by BJP. Stating that Congress Ministers met under Siddaramaiah''s leadership and he also reposed confidence in Kumaraswamy as CM,Parameshwara said "at no cost will we allow the conspiracy of the opposition to destabilise this government to succeed." However, a Congress Minister who attended the cabinet meeting said they impressed upon the Chief Minister to look into issues raised by party MLAs about their constituencies and governance related issues and also sought better coordination between both parties and the government.

The Chief Minister agreed to convene a joint legislature party meeting of both Congress and JD(S) that has been a long standing demand and also district and department wise meetings with MLAs to address their concerns, he said. Another minister said the coalition coordination committee would meet soon to discuss the way ahead for smooth functioning of the government. He said they also resolved to save the coalition at any cost by strategizing against BJP''s plans to poach a few of their MLAs and destabilise the government. Siddaramaiah or the CM may even speak to rebel Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi,who has been hobnobbing with BJP for some time and even threatened to resign from the party after the LS polls, which will lead to a numbers game in the assembly.

BJP, on its part, has predicted the collapse of the coalition and increase in its tally in the assembly after the results, claiming that 20 odd Congress MLAs are unhappy with the government and may take any decision after May 23. The Karnataka assembly has 224 members, in which BJP has 105 MLAs, Congress-78,JD(S)-37, BSP (1), independent (1)(both now supporting the ruling alliance), KPJP(1) and the Speaker. Meanwhile, after the cabinet meeting, Kumaraswamy chaired the JDS legislature party meeting, where the leadership told MLA''s to be cautious about any attempts by BJP to lure them to destabilise the government.

The meeting also discussed the poll results and importance to save the coalition government and the way ahead, party sources said. JD(S) won only one of the seven seats it contested. Itspatriarch H D Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy''s son Nikhil lost inTumkur and Mandya respectively.

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