Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Prime Minister HD Devegowda said if Rahul Gandhi becomes the prime minister, he will be by his side. “I have no ambition of anything but what I always said is that I am not going to retire from active politics,” he told ANI on Thursday.

Devegowda, who had announced three years ago that he would not contest elections again, claimed that circumstances have forced him to enter the fray again. Devegowda is contesting from Tumkur constituency in Karnataka. He is pitted against Bharatiya Janata Party nominee GS Basavaraj.

The JD(S) and the Congress formed a coalition government in Karnataka after a hung verdict in the Assembly election in 2018. “Madam Sonia Gandhi has taken the decision to support Deve Gowda even though we are a small party,” said the 85-year-old leader. “Now it is my responsibility to move forward with Congress, though I do agree in some states there is no question of any coalition. But in Tamil Nadu, there is a coalition between Congress and DMK and with Sharad Pawar’s party in Maharashtra.”

Asked about his son and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s comment about being the prime minister as a consensus candidate, Devegowda said: “I am not bothered about this. My concern is [Narendra] Modi will come to Parliament. I have got the guts and conviction to tell it to the face of the PM. I have the courage. If Rahul Gandhi becomes the prime minister, I will sit by his side. It is not necessary to become the prime minister.”

The JD(S) chief rejected accusations of saving the family rather than the party. “Several leaders who worked with me collectively, have left,” he said. “Some people are in Congress, some in BJP. I was able to keep the party intact but suffered. I have not allowed my family members to become president of the party.” Devegowda’s two grandsons are contesting from Mandya and Hassan seats.

In Karnataka, the Congress will contest from 20 seats while the JD(S) will contest from eight seats. In 2014, the BJP won 15 seats from the state, the Congress got 10 and the JD(S) bagged two. The state has 28 Lok Sabha seats.