The alliance is said to be headed for trouble as the Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy-led government, which is still negotiating seat sharing, seems to have lost the perception battle among the public. The Gowda family’s desire to field two third-generation members in the polls has angered a section in the party and the Congress is worried about its fallout.
Despite over half-a-dozen humiliating defeats in its attempts to dislodge the combine, the BS Yeddyurappa-led state BJP now appears to be in a strong position to take on the coalition partners.
A senior Congress leader, while speaking to News18, said: “The ruling JD(S)-Congress looks weaker and dispirited. The opposition BJP is looking aggressive. It is a strange scenario. By aligning with the JD(S), we seem to have lost our number one position in Karnataka.”
After the Congress joined hands with the JD(S) to keep the BJP out of power, workers of both the parties in old Mysore region are feeling dejected since they always fought each other at the ground level. In the Old Mysore region comprising 10 districts of south Karnataka, the Congress and JD(S) have been a dominant force and the BJP is a marginal player, except in state capital Bengaluru.
The coalition has upset workers of both sides, which is helping the BJP make inroads into its toughest terrain. The JD(S) is demanding 12 of 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state and at least eight of them are in this region. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won nine seats, the JD(S) two and the BJP won 17 seats.
The Congress won seven seats and the JD(S) won two seats from the Old Mysore region alone. The Congress has categorically refused to give up the seats it won and the Gowdas are demanding at least two seats currently held by the grand old party.
The JD(S) has complicated matters further by declaring that Prajwal Revanna, son of PWD minister HD Revanna, and Nikhil Kumar, Kumaraswamy’s son, will contest from Hassan and Mandya respectively, which are currently held by the party.
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda represents the Hassan Lok Sabha seat and the local Congress workers are opposing Prajwal’s nomination. Local Congress strongman and former minister A Manju is likely to be a BJP candidate if the JD(S) goes ahead with Prajwal’s nomination. He is hoping that Congress supporters will vote for the BJP to defeat Gowda’s grandson.
In Mandya, a war has erupted between former MP and cine star Ambareesh’s widow Sumalatha and the JD(S). Sumalatha, a famous actress of yesteryears, is insistent that the Congress field her from Mandya. She has refused to contest from Bengaluru South and has threatened to contest as an independent against the JD(S). According to insiders, the BJP is keeping a close eye on her and has already sent feelers to her.
Deve Gowda’s plans to shift to Bengaluru North have also not gone down well with the Congress as it has five MLAs in the urban seat currently held by Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda. The JD(S) has only one MLA here.
The JD(S) is eyeing Chikkaballapura held by M Veerappa Moily and Tumkur held by Mudduhanume Gowda of the Congress, claiming that both have no chances of winning this time. The ruling combine is still searching for a candidate to take on Tejaswini Ananthkumar, the BJP candidate and widow of Union minister Ananthkumar from Bengaluru South.
According to state Congress leaders, the JD(S) may finally accept six seats and Deve Gowda and Congress president Rahul Gandhi will close the deal by March 10.
The situation is not so promising for the Congress in Mumbai-Karnataka with seven seats and Hyderabad-Karnataka with five seats. In 2014, the Congress won just one seat from each region. The JD(S) has a marginal presence here.
Rebel Congress MLA Umesh Jadhav, who has quit the assembly, is rumoured to be BJP’s candidate against Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge from Gulbarga/Kalaburgi in Hyderabad-Karnataka region. According to some reports, Kharge is fighting a tough battle this time.
The Congress and JD(S) are still searching for strong candidates in at least six Lok Sabha seats and the BJP has a clear advantage in these constituencies.
Speaking to News18, Yeddyurappa said he was confident of winning 22 seats from Karnataka. “We will make big gains in Old Mysore region this time. JD(S) and Congress workers hate each other. They are angry with coalition politics,” he said.
However, former CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah rubbished Yeddyurappa’s claims. Speaking to News18, he said the BJP was politicising Pulwama attacks and India’s air strikes. “The BJP is desperate for power. Our alliance is strong. We will defeat the BJP and are expecting over 20 seats from Karnataka” he said. Kumaraswamy said he was confident of a big win for the JD(S)-Congress combine and the BJP would bite the dust.
Political analysts, meanwhile, argue that the current scenario favours the BJP and the JD(S)-Congress combine might suffer a big defeat if it does not take practical decisions at the earliest.