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Kumaraswamy's U-turn, Gowda's Silence and Dozen MLAs Ready to Jump Ship: JDS’ Latest Challenge

File photo of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. (PTI)

File photo of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. (PTI)

The centralisation of power with the Gowda family, unilateral decisions and inconsistencies on important issues are said to be the reasons for disenchantment with the party.

After backing the farmers’ “India bandh”, the JDS did a U-turn the next day, without offering any explanations. After some time, former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy feebly tried to defend his party's stand, playing both sides.

Not so surprisingly, the JDS also voted in favour of the recently amended farm laws in the Karnataka Assembly, triggering all kinds of speculations. The decision of the “farmers’ party” shocked hard-core cadre, but the Gowdas seem to have other plans.

Kumaraswamy is known for sudden U-turns and inconsistencies, for a long time. He is moving closer to the ruling BJP in Karnataka and the recent developments prove that.

He has been attacking his bête noire and former CM of Congress, Siddaramaiah, blaming him for the collapse of his coalition government last year. An incensed Siddaramaiah has also launched a direct attack on Gowda's son, calling him a "dealer" and not a leader.

The JDS cadre is nervously watching the unfolding developments. Most of the party MLAs and MLCs are keeping quiet, not coming out to defend their leader.

Party patriarch and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda is adding to the confusion by maintaining a radio silence over the current developments in his party and Karnataka politics.

According to insiders, at least a dozen JDS MLAs are in touch with the BJP and Congress. Fed up with the party's indifferent attitude towards them, these MLAs are planning to jump ship.

Former minister and senior MLA SR Srinivas is reportedly in talks with state Congress president DK Shivakumar. The state unit president of JDS and six-time MLA HK Kumaraswamy is also looking at the BJP, claim insiders.

"At least a dozen will leave the party for BJP and Congress. Their number will go up closer to assembly elections due in early 2023. Many don't want to risk a by-poll, that's why they are not leaving now," said a disgruntled MLA.

The JDS has about 34 MLAs in a House of 224 members.

The centralisation of power with the Gowda family, unilateral decisions and inconsistencies on important issues are said to be the reasons for disenchantment with the party.

"The JDS support base is eroding faster. As of now the future looks bleak. Many have come to a conclusion that the children won't be able to run the party. Deve Gowda is already 87 and not active," said another leader.

"DK Shivakumar is also a Vokkaliga from the Old Mysore region, the stronghold of the Gowdas. Kumaraswamy is worried about his future. If the Vokkaligas side with DK Shivakumar in the Assembly elections by ditching the Gowdas, the party will be down in the dumps and may not even recover again. That's why he is moving closer to BJP to save his base. He does not mind losing elections. But, he does not want DK Shivakumar to win the race for the Congress," said a senior MLC of the JDS.

The developments in the JDS have given a breather to beleaguered Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa who is fighting an internal battle to save his chair. He feels that in a fluid situation like this, the party high command may not touch him.

But given its history of U-turns, JDS might do one more U-turn, upsetting the political equations once again.

first published:December 21, 2020, 11:10 IST