Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Question of survival for JD(S)
Karnataka is voting to elect its members of parliament for 14-constituencies during the 2nd phase of polling on Thursday. This is not merely a parliamentary election, but it poses an existential question for the Deve Gowda family as also the 11-month-old HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
While the BJP and the Congress have six and five seats respectively at stake, the outcome of three constituencies, Deve Gowda and his two grandsons, Prajwal Revanna and Nikhil Kumaraswamy are contesting from, could either soar the fortunes of the Janata Dal (Secular) or send the dynastic party hurling to its doom.
Chief Minister Kumaraswamy’s actor-son Nikhil is contesting from Mandya, Gowda’s elder son and PWD minister HD Revanna’s son Prajwal is trying to inherit Hassan from his grandfather, while Deve Gowda – with a distant dream of a second term as prime minister – is testing the waters in Tumakuru, a constituency which the JD(S) has never won.
In Deve Gowda’s calculations, a firm believer in astrology, the positioning of constellations was perfect to launch the third generation of his family in politics.
Rahul Gandhi had conceded chief ministership to the JD(S) after the May 2018 Assembly polls as he hoped to reap rich dividends in the Lok Sabha elections in partnership with the JD(S). The two parties together had secured 56% of votes to BJP’s 43% and the leaders calculated that by going together they could win as many as 22 to 24 seats out of 28 Lok Sabha seats at stake.
With the JD(S) having won all eight seats in Mandya and six out of eight in Hassan and both being Vokkaliga strongholds, they were supposed to offer smooth launching pads for Nikhil and Prajwal. But ever since the candidates were announced about a month ago, and after much dilly-dallying Deve Gowda also entered the fray Tumakuru, the public mood seems to have turned dramatically against the Gowda family. The Congress workers are upset that the party has conceded Tumakuru to JD(S), sidelining Muddahanumaiah who had won last time.
With constant prodding from Rahul Gandhi and Deve Gowda, the leaders of the two parties have been campaigning together, but in a number of constituencies, the party workers have virtually rebelled against the leadership, making them jittery about the outcome of the elections.
With much at stake for his family and the survival of his government, Kumaraswamy appears clearly shaken. His campaign speeches are peppered with abuses directed at his opponents and the media and taunting words against local Congress leaders for not following the ‘coalition dharma’; and on more than one occasion, he has turned emotional, shedding tears in public in a sorry display of self-pity.
Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil is fighting hard in the face of a sympathy wave in favour of Sumalatha Ambareesh in Mandya, Prajwal Revanna’s claim for ‘inheritance’ of Hassan is being strongly challenged by A Manju of the BJP, and the patriarch Deve Gowda himself is looking a little bit lost in the unfamiliar territory of Tumakuru, fighting a BJP veteran GS Basavaraju.
For the Congress, which has five seats at stake in this phase, none more important than Mysuru, which is a prestigious fight for Siddaramaiah to retain his own political base. CH Vijayashankar, a fellow Kuruba, is pitted against sitting BJP candidate Pratap Simha, who has both his caste and the ‘Modi factor’ working in his favour.
In the neighbouring Chamarajanagar, 72-year-old, five-time MP Srinivasa Prasad has been persuaded by the BJP to come out of retirement and take on Dhruvanarayan of the Congress, who is looking for a hat-trick of wins. In Kolar, KH Muniyappa of the Congress appears poised for the eighth straight victory as the BJP, in a surprise move, put up a weak and little known Muniswamy against him.
In Chikkaballapur, former chief minister Veerappa Moily appears to be fighting a losing battle against BN Bacche Gowda of the BJP, whom he had defeated by around 9,000 votes in 2014. Last time, Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) being the third candidate in the fray, had helped Moily sail through by garnering 1.5 lakh votes, but now, Moily has the ‘disadvantage’ of facing a direct fight. Moily has also come across people’s anger for failing to make Yettinahole drinking water scheme a reality.
In Bangalore Rural, DK Suresh, brother of Congress strongman DK Shivakumar, is poised to retain his seat with little difficulty, while in the three metropolitan constituencies – Bangalore South, Bangalore North and Bangalore Central – the BJP candidates are hoping to ride largely on the ‘Modi factor’ to emerge victorious.
Union Minister Sadananda Gowda, who had won by a margin of 2.29 lakh in 2014, is facing a stiff challenge from state minister Krishna Byregowda in Bangalore North; in Bangalore Central, PC Mohan is taking on Rizwan Arshad while actor Prakash Raj as an independent candidate, is trying to woo voters with his brand of ‘alternative politics.’
In Bangalore South, 28-year-old rookie Tejaswi Surya has the onerous responsibility of retaining the BJP bastion which the late Ananthkumar won six times in a row. After the initial controversy about his selection, BJP chief Amit Shah seems to have convinced the state leaders to work for Surya, who is clearly depending on the Modi factor to work for his maiden entry into parliament.