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Headed for oblivion


JD (S) family politics has boomeranged and its leaders Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy are looking down the barrel of the gun. NK Suprabha has the details.
NK SUPRABHA | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : JD(S) | HD Kumaraswamy | Karnataka politics | Siddaramayya | HD Deve Gowda |

For the family-owned JD(S) in Karnataka, there seems little option but oblivion at the moment. The recent by-election results in the state revealed the deep hole that party chief HD Kumaraswamy had dug for himself. He lost two crucial Lok Sabha seats of Mandya and Ramnagar, both held by the JD (S), reducing his party strength in the Lok Sabha to 1.
The victory of the Congress and its candidates Ramya and DK Suresh against a united opposition combine comprising the Janata Dal (Secular), BJP and Karnataka Janata Party came a rude shock to the might of the Deve Gowda family; former foe and currently ally BJP did not contest on both the parliamentary seats to ensure their win. JD(S) is considered strong in these two Vokkaliga-dominated constituencies. Kumaraswamy was forced to resign both the positions, state chief of JD(S) and leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly by virtue of these defaults. But the sacrifice has come a shade late, not enough to regain power or stand up to the might of Congress currently in the safe hands of chief minister Siddaramayya, once a dominant JD(S) leader himself. Under Siddaramayya, the Congress is today on a winning streak; it won 122 seats in the assembly elections and has now followed it up with victories in the bye-elections.

For former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, things have changed drastically after he decided to hand over the reins of his party to son Kumaraswamy, ditching die hard followers like Siddaramayya and M P Prakash. For Kumaraswamy, it is a double whammy; he went against his father and other ‘secular’ advice to tie up with BJP, which turned the minority vote towards the Congress’s way, the JD (S) losing much of its secular sheen.

But these last nails in the party coffin started to sink in the last decade when popular leaders nurtured by Deve Gowda left to join the Congress opposing Kumaraswamy and his moves. Kumaraswamy, true to family political traditions in India, threw out powerful leaders out from the party, concentrating only on building his image. By their ouster, the JD (S) became a family political party.

Siddaramaiah joined the Congress in 2006 accusing Deve Gowda of burying the JD(S) ideology by joining hands with ‘communal’ BJP to gain power. Siddaramaiah's entry into Congress came some six months after Kumaraswamy broke away with rebel legislators to become chief minister of the JD(S)-BJP coalition.

Kumarswamy’s desire to become a cult figure in Karnataka politics led to more family politics. When he needed to retain Ramnagar, he was not able to find anyone more winnable than wife, Anitha Kumarawamy, who proved no match for Congress’s power packed performance. Family trouble is well and truly on. Deve Gowda alleged in a recent interview that his son did not work to build the party but was interested in self-glorification.

The results have raised question marks over Deve Gowda and his family’s hold over the Vokkaliga heartland. Already, a large chunk of Lingayats have moved away from them while the third largest community in the state, Kurubas, too have turned their back on JD (S). There is no rainbow coalition of leaders to attract voters like the way Deve Gowda did through Siddaramaiah, late M P Prakash and others.

There are also questions of credibility, the biggest of them being that the JD (S) has no leaders. Kumaraswamy tying up with the BJP has proved disastrous; he has never tried to expand outside the Vokkaliga region, a base which appears to have dissolved this time around, a trend which could well continue till 2014.

Kumaraswamy may be down but not out. He told a recent interviewer: ‘‘I agree that there is a void. But I have a plan. I have youngsters like Bhima Nayak, Munishamappa from SC and ST community, Kona Reddy and Shivshankar from Veerashaiva community and Madhu Bangarappa, a young OBC leader. I will give them bigger responsibilities and push them to work hard. I will identify leaders from every community and allow them to grow. I will ensure that these young leaders grow big so that one day, they can fill the gap created by the exit of Siddaramaiah and Prakash,” he said with a touch of optimism which belied developments on ground.

The Congress victory also marks the rejection of the combined opposition led by the JD (S) in a direct contest. The tie up between the JD (S) and the BJP was supposed to pay rich dividends, instead it was a disaster. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, it was widely believed that an opposition combine could prove to be formidable against the Congress, but as ever the pundits were proved wrong.

With months to go for elections, things look bleak. Crisis-ridden JD (U) needs to infuse fresh blood in the party if it does not want the state to become a Congress bastion. BJP remains crisis-ridden after a three way split and its top leaders accused of corruption have already been demolished in the assembly elections. Its strong base in north Karnataka is very much in Congress hands and the ruling party is working hard to retain it by offering many sops to voters. This way, it hopes to keep parties like JD (S) and BJP permanently in the opposition.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017