JD(S) seeks to expand base in LS polls by capitalising on it being in power
Limited to a couple of constituencies in the old Mysuru region in the successive Lok Sabha polls since its formation in 1999, the JD(S) in Karnataka is aiming to break new ground in the coming parliamentary elections capitalising on the party being in power.
After the Janata Dal split in 1999, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda's JD(S) has been winning two to three Lok Sabha seats in the old Mysuru region, largely from party bastions of Hassan and Mandya, dominated by the Vokkaliga community, its solid vote base, as also from Bangalore Rural and Chamarajanagara once.
The JD(S), the lone surviving active offshoot of the erstwhile Janata Dal in the state, which has seen a revival with it coming to power in Karnataka in alliance with the Congress after the May 2018 assembly polls, wants to use the opportunity to expand its horizons.
The party's presence in the coalition government with the Congress and H D Kumaraswamy's stature as chief minister will help the party in increasing its tally in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, senior JD(S) leader Y S V Datta told PTI.
"It is true, if we were not in government and if there was no coalition, then our strength would have been limited to two or three seats in the old Mysuru region, but now that we are in the government and since our leader Kumaraswamy is chief minister, we can capitalise on his stature across the state," he said.
Datta, who is party's campaign committee chief, said as per the understanding, the Congress will not field its candidates where the JD(S) is contesting, so minorities, backward class and SC/ST votes that were traditionally with the grand old party in those constituencies, will get transferred to the party.
However, he also conceded that the JD(S) should have a base in those constituencies, as one cannot bat on a dead pitch. The Congress will contest 20 seats and the JD(S) eight in the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka under a deal finalised by the two partners of the ruling coalition on Wednesday after weeks of haggling and uncertainty.
The Lok Sabha constituencies that the JD(S) will contest in are Uttara Kannada, Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Tumkur, Hassan, Mandya, Bangalore North and Bijapur. However, political analysts don't see JD(S) gaining much in this election.
"It is a bit unlikely... The JD(S) can improve its performance only if the Congress supports it wholeheartedly, which seems unlikely, because the sentiment that both parties should come together to forge an alliance against the BJP is not shared among the party's rank and file," Narayana A, a professor at Azim Premji University, told PTI.
The kind of signals that have been going out ever since the formation of the coalition government has created some kind of confusion among the workers as to whether they are really in alliance, he said. "So it is unlikely that one can expect the kind of support from the the Congress that the JD(S) needs to win," he said.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the vote share of the JD(S) in the seven constituencies was -- Chikmagalur 1.44 per cent, Shimoga 21.29 per cent, Tumkur 23.47 per cent, Hassan 44.43 per cent, Mandya 43.95 per cent, Bangalore North 6.83 per cent and Bijapur 5.95 per cent. The party had not fielded any candidate from Uttara Kannada.
The JD(S) had won the Hassan and Mandya seats in the last general elections. The Congress had bagged nine and the BJP 17 seats. However in the by-polls, the BJP yielded the Bellary seat to the Congress. Among the eight seats that the JD(S) is contesting this time, it has its sitting MPs in two.
Tumkuru is with the Congress and the rest five constituencies are represented by the BJP. According to sources, during seat negotiations, the JD(S) got the Tumkur seat, dominated by the Vokkaliga community, after a hard bargain as the Congress had decided not to cede those constituencies to the regional partner where it has a sitting MP.
Mysore-Kodagu was another constituency that the JD(S) had demanded from the old Mysuru region, but could not bag it due to opposition from Siddaramaiah, as the seat is in his home turf, sources said.
Narayana also feels that despite the JD(S) fielding Deve Gowda's grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy in their bastion of Mandya, it will not be a cakewalk for the party this time. "I'm not too sure that the party workers will have the same kind of feelings towards him, as they had towards, Deve Gowda or Kumaraswamy," he said.
He however said, Hassan should not be much of a problem for the JD(S), where Gowda's other grandson Prajwal Revanna is the candidate, as he has been associated with the party affairs there for some time now.
There is opposition to Nikhil Kumaraswamy's candidature in Mandya, as many who claim to be JD(S) supporters have hit out at the party leadership for sidelining loyal party workers to favour some one from their family, despite not being actively involved in party activities in the district. Nikhil is likely to be pitted against Sumalatha Ambareesh, wife of late actor-turned-politician Ambareesh in Mandya.