New Delhi: Learning from past mistakes, the Congress on Tuesday moved swiftly to remain in the game as it extended support to JD(S) to form a government in Karnataka after the BJP failed to get a simple majority.
The move is seen as an attempt by the beleaguered party to save yet another state from slipping out of its kitty. The Congress currently rules Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry.
The step will also help provide a major boost to the "sagging morale" of the Congress ahead of state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where the party sees an opportunity to upstage the BJP, and 2019 general elections.
Unlike in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, where the Congress failed to form its government despite securing the highest seats, it forged a quick post-poll alliance with the JD-S in Karnataka and staked claim to government formation.
Sensing a clear opportunity, the Congress leadership took a quick call to let go of the post of chief minister, which it offered to JD(S) that lapped it up immediately.
Sources said that Congress president Rahul Gandhi discussed the issue with Sonia Gandhi and decided to play out the card of offering chief ministership to H D Kumaraswamy, the son of JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.
The decision was conveyed to the JD(S) leadership which sealed the deal immediately.
Party veterans Ashok Gehlot and Ghulam Nabi Azad had been positioned in Bengaluru since Monday to take care of the last minute strategy, should the need arise.
Their presence proved handy on Tuesday as they engaged the JD(S) leaders H D Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy to seal the post poll deal and re-enter what appeared a lost game for them until this afternoon.
The attempt is also a bid to salvage its position in Karnataka, where the party's tally fell from 122 in 2013 to 78 this time and its chief minister Siddharamaiah lost from one of the two seats he contested.
The move will also help bolster the party's attempt to remain at the centre-stage of a larger opposition alliance against the Narendra Modi juggernaut in its bid to defeat the BJP.
The Congress has been on a downslide and is losing state after state ever since the Modi-led BJP started its upward journey.
The ball is now in the court of Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala, after both the Congress-JD(S) alliance as well as the BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP staked claim to form government.
As all parties wait and watch, the Congress made it clear that it would go all out to ensure that it forms the next Karnataka government with JD(S) and hinted at even moving the court in case it is stopped from doing so.
The Congress has cited the March 13, 2017, judgement of the Supreme Court in this regard as well as constitutional and legal provisions.
It also cited the past practices followed by the BJP in forming its governments in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, where the Congress could not form governments despite emerging as the single-largest party.
"We expect the Governor to listen to the mandate of the people...However, all options will always remain open to the Congress," party's communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said when asked what would the party do if the governor calls the BJP to prove majority on the floor of the assembly.
"The governor has no choice but to invite the JD(S)-Congress coalition which has a clear majority to form the government in the state.
"As per constitutional and legal provisions, the governor has no option but to invite the coalition," he said.
The Congress cited the precedents BJP set in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya to turn the argument around and said post poll alliances of parties can be called to form the government.
"This is the precedent the BJP has set," he said.