Bengaluru: Andhra Pradesh chief minister N.Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday met his Karnataka counterpart, H.D.Kumaraswamy at former Prime Minister H.D.Deve Gowda’s residence in Bengaluru, two days after the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) won four out of five by-polls in the state, defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Naidu is one of the main players in the ‘mahagathbandhan’ or grand alliance that aims to consolidate Opposition forces to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP in next year’s polls.

Deve Gowda said that it was the responsibility of all secular parties to come together and end the NDA government in 2019.

Naidu said he joined the momentum of consolidating all opposition parties, to “save the nation, democracy, constitution and institutions," which he said was being destroyed under the current regime.

Naidu alleged that demonetisation, which completed two years on Thursday, had no results but instead had put the economy in trouble.

The Congress-JD(S) point out that the BJP had lost most of the by-polls since the May swearing-in ceremony of Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru, which saw over 15 state and national leaders share a common stage to take on Modi. Naidu said in Karnataka, the JD(S)-Congress swept the polls, which he said highlighted the “mood of the nation".

Karnataka has become the anti-BJP platform for all opposition political parties, national and regional, with Gowda playing the catalyst to help bring down the BJP government next year. “1996 will be repeated in 2019," Kumaraswamy said on Thursday, pointing out how the third front formed the government at the centre with the leadership of Gowda as PM.

Though earlier calls for the third front had aimed to create a non-Congress, non-BJP led force at the Centre, this time the Congress was leading the consolidation efforts under Rahul Gandhi.

Congress had sacrificed the chief minister’s post in Karnataka despite being the bigger partner after the hung verdict in the state assembly elections in May to deny the BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party in the polls, a chance at power.

Naidu has taken the lead by meeting other opposition leaders to build momentum for the mahagathbandhan. Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which was part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, pulled out of the alliance in March over the demand to grant a special status to Andhra Pradesh.

Since then, Naidu had led the opposition’s interests. The mahagathbandhan received a jolt last month when Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati pulled out of an alliance in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which will head to the polls early next year.

Though there was consensus that opposition forces should unite to take on the BJP, there seemed to be no clarity on who would be the candidate for the prime minister’s. Gowda had openly endorsed Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate, while Naidu remained non-committal to this proposal.

“Prime Minister candidate we will decide together. First we will protect and save democracy and the nation," he said.

Naidu said that he will meet M.K.Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Friday.

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