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'Helpless' Former PM, High Ambitions: Even at 86, Why Deve Gowda's Retiral Plan Has Taken a Back Seat With Cong-JDS Pact

'Helpless' Former PM, High Ambitions: Even at 86, Why Deve Gowda's Retiral Plan Has Taken a Back Seat With Cong-JDS Pact

JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda, who may be fielded from Bangalore North seat, admitted that he is under pressure from party men and even at 86, he might choose to forgo retirement.

Bengaluru: The Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) on Wednesday hammered out a seat-sharing agreement in which CM Kumaraswamy’s party secured eight of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, leaving the Congress with 20 seats.

What the JDS has got in the bargain is a rather interesting mix. It has, of course, secured Mandya and Hassan, the only two seats held by the JDS in the current Lok Sabha and the party’s traditional strongholds.

This didn’t come as a surprise as one of the first things the two parties had agreed on was that they would contest on the seats where they have sitting MPs.

The contention, however, was always around the seats which are currently held by the BJP.

Nevertheless, JDS drove a hard bargain to retain seats where it felt it had better chances of winning, primarily the districts where Vokkaliga community is dominant. JDS is typically seen as a party of the dominant Vokkaliga caste.

The Congress conceded on another seat - that from Tumkur. The party, however, held onto the seats from Chikkaballapur and Mysore-Kodagu.

The Chikkaballapur constituency is currently represented by Congress’ Veerappa Moily. Speculation is rife that he is currently facing an anti-incumbency wave there but Moily still seems to have the upper-hand.

Meanwhile, Mysore-Kodagu is the hometown of former CM Siddaramaiah and he too has maintained his hold over the constituency. Siddaramaiah wants to field CH Vijayashankar for the seat now.

What is interesting, however, is that the JDS will contest on the Bengaluru North seat, which is currently represented by Union Minister Sadananda Gowda. The constituency is divided into eight Assembly segments, five having Congress MLAs, two JDS MLAs and the remaining one has a BJP MLA.

This is the seat that former PM HD Deve Gowda is considering to contest on, not only owing to the significant Vokkaliga population but also party "pressure". Deve Gowda admits he is under stress from party men and even at 86, he might choose to forgo retirement.

Party MLC T A Saravana told News18 that workers wish to see him as an MP once more.

"We know he said he doesn't want to contest any more elections, having given up the Hassan seat for his grandson. But all party workers feel he must contest, it would help the overall tally of the party. Besides, it's in the city, he wouldn't have to travel far to meet his constituents at this age," he said.

Gowda is yet to make up his mind. But an 'aside' from his son and chief minister HD Kumaraswamy last week had tongues wagging on the party's calculations.

Kumaraswamy had said that if the JDS fares well, other parties would come running to his father, hinting that his father could be looking at another stint as prime minister.

Even if there is no chance at the top post, greater their number, greater their bargaining power at the Centre if the Mahaghathbandhan does manage a good show in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

However, there have been conflicts within the party as many party workers have rebelled against Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil being field as the candidate from Mandya. The workers even carried out online campaigns titled 'Go-Back Nikhil.'

Their problem is that while Deve Gowda’s other grandson Prajwal Revanna’s debut has been in the works for many years now and as Prajwal has also worked in the constituency, Nikhil’s entry is only symptomatic of the party’s dynastic tendencies.

His initiation into the JDS’ electoral fray ignores the many district level leaders who have worked hard for the party.

The problem has now multiplied with even the Congress workers of the district expressing their opposition to Nikhil’s candidature. Many are openly working for actor Sumalatha, the wife of late actor-MP Ambarish, who plans to contest independently.

However, the two parties are trying to iron out these kinds of differences between their workers, a Congress leader said.

"Our workers will have to be persuaded. Our workers have to help the JDS candidate win in Bangalore North, and their workers will help with our campaign in Mysore. That way we will strike a balance," said a senior (Congress) MLA.

Another battle, which will be closely watched is the one over the seat from Uttara Kannada, currently being represented by Anant Kumar Hegde, the firebrand BJP minister. Hegde has had a controversial stint and is especially notorious for remarks seeking a change in the Constitution.

The coastal Karnataka region is known for being pro-BJP, so while choosing this the JDS is raising quite a few eyebrows. But, according to JDS sources, the party has identified a popular candidate in the region, who was a BJP member and left the party over his ‘mistreatment’.

Sources said, without revealing his name, that the party will be pitting this candidate against the five-time MP Hegde, who is on a shaky ground due to an anti-incumbency mood in the constituency.