Alliance to take upon Formidable BJP
Lok Sabha Elections 2019
Congress-JDS Alliance has not been without friction, but has stayed in place and gives them a slight edge.
By A Staff Writer
Karnataka is the first state where two major parties cemented an alliance to take upon the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The ruling combine in the state, Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS), have divided the 28 LokSabha seats among themselves, with Congress fielding its candidates from 21 and the JDS on seven seats. Originally, the Congress had offered eight seats to the JDS. But the latter has given back one seat i.e., Bengaluru North, to the Congress to field its candidates.
Elections will be held in two phases i.e., on April 18 for the 14 seats in southern districts of the state, while another 14 seats in northern districts will go to polls on April 23.
It is useful to be reminded that Karnataka is the most hospitable state for the BJP among the five South Indian states. The party had ruled the state between 2008 and 2013, though the tenure saw three chief ministers during the term. The party has a good grip over the Lingayath community, who dominate the power structure in the northern districts of the state, and also has a grip over two coastal districts of South Canara and Udupi. It had emerged the largest party during the Assembly elections held during May 2018 by winning 104 of 228 seats. But a quick declaration of support by Congress to a Government headed by the Janata Dal Secular changed the dynamics altogether. The alliance, though not wholly smooth, has stood the test of tensions, conflict of interest and rifts for the last ten months. The two parties have left aside their differences and have decided to face the BJP challenge unitedly.
In the Assembly elections, though the vote percentage of the Congress was slightly higher than the BJP’s, the party won 80 of the 228 seats (less than BJP’s 104), while the JDS bagged 37 seats and the BSP one seat. BJP’s Operation Lotus to woo Congress MLAs did not succeed and the alliance Government has held the ground.
The BJP has a formidable following in the state. During the 2014 elections, it had bagged 17 of the 28 seats with Congress winning nine and the JDS two. During a by election two years ago, the BJP lost the Ballary seat, conceding it to the Congress. Thus, currently, Congress has ten MPs in the Lok Sabha, BJP 17 and the JDS two.
If Assembly elections are any guide, the Congress had polled 38% votes, BJP 36.34% and the JDS 18%. If the Congress-JDS votes are put together they amount to 56% votes. Going by this, the Congress-JDS alliance should garner a majority of 28 Lok Sabha seats. However the ground situation does not remain the same. Fracas between the two allies has dented the image of the two parties a bit. Secondly, in the past the Karnataka voters have shown distinctly different behavior during Assembly and Lok Sabha voting even when the two were held close to each other. Severe drought in the northern districts too is likely to impact the voting pattern.
Grandsons in fray
Some of the seats such as South Bengaluru are simply out of bounds for the Cong-JDS alliance. The seat was represented by Mr. Ananth kumar till his death in November last year. A middle class and Brahmin dominated seat, it elected Mr. Ananth kumar six times in a row since 1996. However, his wife, Tejaswini, a social worker, has been denied the seat and a young lawyer Tajaswi has been pitted in the constituency. Though there is some resentment against the choice in the BJP cadres, it is not likely to affect the BJP’s prospects. The BJP can also remain sure about its win in the South Canara seat. Similarly, the Congress has handed over the Tumakuru seat to JDS supreme and former Prime Minister Mr. H. D. Devegowda in lieu of Mr. Mudduhanume gowda who has resented the decision and filed his nomination as an independent. Mr. Devegowda is not likely to face any great hurdle in the constituency. In Hassan, a JDS bastion, the seat was held by Mr. H. D. Gowda who had won against A. Manju of the Congress in 2014. Now that the seat has been assigned to JDS which has fielded Prajwal, grandson of Mr. Devegowda, Manju has joined the BJP and has been given the party’s ticket.
Actress in field
Another interesting contest would be in Mandya, another bastion of the JDS. It was represented by Congress MP and film actor Ambareesh in the Lok Sabha till his death in November 2018. His wife Sumalatha, also a film actor, staked claim for the Congress ticket. But since under the alliance agreement, it had been given to the JDS, Sumalatha has filed her nomination as an independent. The JDS has fielded another Devegowda grandson, Mr. Nikhil, from the seat. The BJP has quickly declared its support for Sumalatha now that she is not the official candidate of any party.
The only Muslim to be fielded by any of the three major parties is Mr. Rizwan Arshad, a Congress MLC who has been fielded by the Congress from Bangalore Central. Arshad had been defeated by a narrow margin in 2014 by Mr. P. C. Mohan. Mr. Sadananda Gowda, a former chief minister, BJP strongman and Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation will be fighting from Bangalore North.
There were rumours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even Mr Rahul Gandhi fighting from some seat in the State. But both have been ruled out now that the Congress has fielded Tejaswi from Bangalore South and Ishwar Khandre from Bidar.
The Congress has fielded seven Lingayaths from the State while only a single Muslim has been nominated, although Lingayaths constitute 16% and Muslims represent 12% of the state population. Muslim leadership of the Congress has come under criticism for overlooking the interest of the community.
Congress heavyweight Mallikarjuna Kharge, nine time winner from various constituencies in LokSabha as well as Assembly, has been nominated from Kalburgei (formerly Gulbarga). He will be facing UmeshJadhav, a turncoat from Congress on BJP ticket. Former CM Yeddyurappa’s son has against been nominated from Shimoga while close confidante Shobha Krandlaje will fight from Udupi-Chigkamagalur seat. Both are formidable BJP candidates. Former CM Veerappa Moily, a sitting MP from Chikkaballapur, will fight from the same seat while another heavyweight K. H. Muniyappa has been renominated from Kolar seat despite opposition from several quarters.
There is no distinct tilt in the public mood which could allow some scope to anticipate the outcome at this stage. All that can be said is that the ruling alliance has certain advantage due to its previous vote share, although it would be dangerous for its to rest on its laurels.