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Deve Gowda Clinches 10 Seats for JDS in Meeting With Rahul Gandhi, But Karnataka Congress Willing to Cede Only 6

Personal egos of leaders, local dynamics and reservations of party cadre have complicated the seat sharing process, giving the BJP a clear advantage in campaigning in Karnataka.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:March 6, 2019, 6:00 PM IST
Deve Gowda Clinches 10 Seats for JDS in Meeting With Rahul Gandhi, But Karnataka Congress Willing to Cede Only 6
Congress President Rahul Gandhi met former Prime Minister and JDS leader HD Deve Gowda on Wednesday.

Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday drove to 5, Safadarjang Lane in New Delhi, the official residence of former prime minister and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda.

Gowda had arrived in the national capital on Tuesday night to meet Rahul Gandhi at another venue, but the Congress president insisted that he would like to meet the octogenarian leader at his house. The gesture indicated that the Congress is ready to walk that extra mile to firm up alliances to take on the ruling BJP.

The JD(S)–Congress coalition in Karnataka, led by Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy, has been shaky from day one. There have already been over half a dozen alleged attempts by the BJP to fracture it. The JD(S) and Congress cadre are also uncomfortable with the alliance as they are primary rivals in Old Mysore region comprising 10 districts of southern Karnataka.

So far the seat-sharing talks between JDS and Congress were held by state leaders of both parties and ended in stalemate. With the dates for election approaching fast, Gowda rushed to New Delhi to clinch the deal with the Congress president.

After the meeting, Gowda told the media that he had asked for 10 Lok Sabha seats and the modalities will be worked out soon. Gowda’s statement has made the state Congress jittery as it is against giving the JDS not more than six seats.

Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress currently has 10 and JDS has 2 MPs from the state. The BJP has 16 MPs. The Congress has already agreed to give up Hassan and Mandya Lok Sabha seats, which are currently held by the JD(S). But, it has refused to give up 10 seats held by the party.

However Gowda is insisting on Tumkur and Chikkaballapura held by the Congress. After vacating his fiefdom Hassan in favour of grandson Prajwal Revanna, declaring the candidature of another grandson Nikhil Gowda from Mandya, Gowda is planning to contest his 15th election from a much safer seat like Tumkur or Chikkaballapura. Since the state Congress unit is opposing such a deal, he may settle for Bengaluru North, claim some of his close aides.

Some argue that Gowda has already set his eyes on Mysore–Kodagu seat. But, former CM Siddaramaiah is allegedly blocking the move, claiming that only a Congress candidate must contest from there.

Personal egos of leaders, local dynamics and reservations of party cadre have complicated the seat sharing process, giving the BJP a clear advantage in campaigning.

According to Congress insiders, the party is ready to give up Shimoga, Uttara Kannada and Bijapura/Vijayapura in addition to Hassan and Mandya. It is also willing to consider ceding Mysore-Kodagu, Bengaluru North and Davanagere if the JD(S) suggests a strong name.

After Gowda’s announcement in New Delhi, a senior Congress leader from Karnataka said the JD(S) did not have 10 strong candidates who could fight the BJP. “The JDS can fight well only in five seats. They should be realistic. Do they have candidates for 10 seats? No. Hope Rahul Gandhi is aware of the ground situation,” he said.

Local JD(S) leaders also admit that getting six seats would be a fair and honourable deal for Gowda’s party.

The Congress high command has tasked state Congress president Dinesh Gundurao, CLP leader Siddaramaiah, deputy CM Dr. G Parameshwara and AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka KC Venugopal with hammering out a mutually agreeable deal.

Since only Gowda and Kumaraswamy take all decisions in the JDS, the Congress is still tense about a possible change in their game plan. After all, Gowda is a hard bargainer and known for deft handling of any political crisis.

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