‘Rahul Gandhi is No 1 PM Candidate,’ Says K’taka CM Kumaraswamy

Three months ago, in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly polls when the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were neck and neck in the battle for the state, many thought HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) will be the "kingmaker" in the state. However, Kumaraswamy had asserted that he will be the "King and not the Kingmaker."

After the results, the Congress lent unconditional support to him in a bid to stop another state from going into the hands of the BJP. Kumaraswamy, with 37 seats in the 224-seat Assembly, became the "King".

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On Wednesday, 18 July, the Karnataka chief minister, in an interview to an English daily, said he considered Congress President Rahul Gandhi the "number one contender for the post of the prime minister of the country".

Kumaraswamy spoke to Hindustan Times on a range of issues, including the compulsions of coalition politics, but said that the Congress-JD(S) combine will have to bring 20-25 seats to the Parliament in 2019. "For that, we are working hard. We are supporting and will stand by Rahul ji."

When asked if Rahul should be the Opposition's prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Kumaraswamy said that different states offer different political situations.

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"We will try to convince all the leaders that the Opposition should face elections against the BJP unitedly. Otherwise, there is no way. For that, from our side, we have tried to convince (several other regional oppositions) parties," he told Hindustan Times.

The Karnataka chief minister summarily rejected that his father and former Prime Minister of India HD Deve Gowda was still nurturing the dream of leading the country. “He is not in the race. Neither do I have any aspirations in national politics. I have bigger developmental challenges in my state,” he said.

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Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony was nothing less than a spectacle. Several Opposition leaders, including some bitter foes like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, shared the stage as Kumaraswamy was sworn in as the state chief minister.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times)

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