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2019 Polls in Karnataka: A litmus test for all three parties

Updated: April 15, 2019 3:43 pm

Karnataka state, which has been under the rickety coalition government of two diametrically opposite parties, presents an interesting picture as well as pregnant with many possibilities when it comes to the ensuing 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In a way, it is a litmus test for the three parties – BJP, Congress and the JDS – in their own respective manner.

While it is the prestige for the BJP not only to increase its tally from 17 (2014 score) to at-least 21 or 22, the Congress and JDS will have to prove that the electoral adjustment that they entered into will yield desired results. While the JDS had won two seats, the Congress had scored nine seats in 2014. In the ensuing elections, the Congress is contesting 21 seats out of total 28 seats, the JDS is contesting seven seats.

That the JDS is so bankrupt of candidates can be made out from the fact that it has given its B form to a Congress leader Pramod Madhwaraj in Udupi-Chickamagalur parliamentary constituency. What, however, is egregious in Karnataka politics today is that perhaps for the first time, as many as three candidates from one family – Gowda family – are contesting the general elections.

While former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is testing his luck from Tumkur, he has “relinquished” his home-turf of Hassan to his grand-son Prajwal Revanna, son of H.D. Revanna, the PWD minister in the condominium called JDS-Congress government. Another grand-son, Nikhil Kumaraswamy is testing his luck from the Vokkaliga-dominated  Sugar-belt Mandya Lok Sabha constituency. Nikhil, who

has stepped into Kannada tinsel world recently, is the son of chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. Deve Gowda’s daughter-in-law and Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha Kumaraswamy is MLA from Ramanagaram.

With this the circle is complete that proves that the JDS is nothing but “crowd around a family” and is a political party in technical terms.

In the initial stages, the BJP leadership and the cadre were over-confident and also complacent – that they will pull through the elections basking under Modi’s glory. But soon the leadership realised that Modi’s charishma and wave are not sufficient and it has to be encashed and converted into votes only through a vibrant activity at the grass-root level by the cadre.

This was driven home by none other than B.S. Yeddyurappa, the state President, who himself is on whirlwind tour of the state even before the elections were declared. “I have travelled One Lakh Kilometre much before the dates for the elections were announced. I am of the view that a robust activity by the party cadre at the grass-root level is the pre-requisite to encach Modi wave,” Yeddyurappa told Uday India, before leaving for Kalaburgi.

According to Yeddyurappa, the BJP is expected to win around 21 seats – four more than what it had won in 2014. “If we push hard, I will not be surprised if we win 23 seats also. Let’s see,” he said.

The scene in both the Congress and JDS is pathetic, to put it in mild terms. Even though there is supposed to be electoral understanding between the two parties, leaders of both the parties have failed to convince their respective cadre to work for coalition partners.

Chandre Gowda, a prominent Congress leader in Hassan sounds logical when he said, “For any political party worker, elections are the most effective medium to establish and test our leadership. If we work for JDS in this election, can I go and ask vote for my Congress in the next elections? This dichotomy and embarrassing situation is not understood by our leaders. I have decided not to work for JDS candidate Prajwal Revanna. All these years we have suffered at the high-handed behaviour of Gowda and then his son and now we have to yield to Gowda’s grandson. Nothing doing. We will work against JDS and ensure BJP’s victory. Let Modi win and not this kid Prajwal Revanna.” A similar opinion was echoed by Congress workers in Mandya where the Congress has left the seat to JDS.

JDS workers too are of the same view when it comes to working for Congress candidate. In Bangalore Rural where sitting MP D. K Suresh (brother of D.K. Shivakumar) is seeking re-election, JDS workers are reluctant to work for Congress.

Said Nagaraj a prominent JDS worker in Kanakapura, “D.K. Suresh is MP. But we in JDS too have our own base. I am nursing this area to become corporator or MLA in future. If I work for the Congress now, can I go and ask vote for JDS in the next coming days? We will not work. Instead we will silently work for BJP. Let Modi win. Suresh’s victory hardly matters to the country’s politics.”

Leaders of the both the parties have failed to convince their respective party cadre. JDS leader and Higher Education Minister G. T. Deve Gowda, who hails from Mysore, was booed by his own party workers when he appealed to work for the Congress. Even Siddaramaiah could not pacify the Congress workers throughout the state.

The intensity of anger and resentment of the JDS and Congress workers against this, rather, tenuous electoral arrangement, were quite visible and pronounced throughout the state.

Whether this fragile electoral adjustment and the absence  of chemistry between the Congress and JDS workers at the grass-root level is going to be advantageous  to the BJP remains to be seen,  however Said Shobha Karandlaje, state BJP general secretary, “BJP’s victory is based on its own intrinsic organisational strength mixed  with Modi’s wave. We do not  base our analysis and calculations on the basis of other parties. Of Course, the internal affairs of other parties will, indeed, have its own impact which cannot be quantified as of now. But essentially and principally, BJP’s victory is based on our own strength.” Shobha, sitting  MP from Udupi-Chickamagalur, is seeking re-elections from the same constituency and she is pitted against Pramod Madhwaraj, a Congress leader contesting as candidate of JDS which doesn’t have much social and geographical base in that constituency.

It remains to be seen which party will pass the litmus test that also has a bearing on the survival or otherwise of the JDS after this elections.

By S. A. Hemantha Kumar

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