With less than a fortnight to go for the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, the resentment among grassroot level workers of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition only seems to be growing against their leadership’s decision to fight the polls together.
With no solution to the Mandya problem in sight, despite efforts by the Congress leadership to bring party workers on board to support JD(S) candidate and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil, JDS workers in Mysore have now expressed their anger against the decision to support the grand old party’s candidate, CH Vijayashankar.
At a meeting of JD(S) leaders and workers in Mysore on Friday, party workers openly opposed supporting the Congress candidate and demanded that Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah hold discussions with them, seeking support.
According to sources, JD(S) workers pointed at Congress not supporting their candidate in Mandya and threatened to support the BJP in Mysore, and raised pro-Modi slogans. Several of them even pointed out alleged atrocities meted out to them during Congress rule and also cases filed against them, they said.
The meeting was attended by JD(S) leader and Minister GT Devegowda, who has the credit of defeating the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in the 2018 assembly polls.
Devegowda was until recently miffed over JD(S) ceding the Mysore seat to Congress and was not involved in campaigning.
He is now said to have agreed to support Vijayashankar after attempts by several coalition leaders, including Siddaramaiah, to pacify him.
Speaking to reporters, Devegowda pointed out that Congress and JD(S) are traditional opponents in all eight assembly constituencies in Mysore, and efforts are being made to convince party workers to support the Congress candidate.
“Not only in Chamundeshwari assembly constituency, in all the assembly constituencies there was a fight between Congress and JD(S) in the last assembly election (May 2018). But as this is Lok Sabha – national level election, forgettinglocal differences and as per the intentions of the coalition,let’s abide by the decision of the leadership, this we have conveyed to our workers,” he said.
Siddaramaiah, who recently called a meeting of Congress leaders from Mandya, had cautioned about repercussions in Mysore if they don’t support the JD(S) candidate there.
Congress will need JD(S)’ support to win in Mysore asa majority of legislators there are from the regional party, with two of them being Ministers.
Meanwhile, reacting to Friday’s developments in Mysore, Siddaramaiah said he would once again speak to Devegowda on what has happened and try to resolve things.
“We had already spoken, they all (Congress-JDS leaders in Mysore) will hold a joint press conference on April 7 and they (JDS) have said they will work together for the victory of Vijayashankar,” he said.
According to coalition arrangement, JD(S) is contesting in seven seats and the Congress, 21 seats. JD(S) had demanded Mysore, but as Siddaramaiah was insistent on getting the seat, which is his home turf, for the Congress, the regional party had to be satisfied with Tumkur as a bargain.
BJP has fielded its sitting MP Prathap Simha as its candidate from Mysore.
Congress leaders in Mandya are miffed over party’s decision to cede the seat to JD(S) and have stayed away from campaigning, with most even extending support to independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, who has BJP’s backing.
They have cited Kumaraswamy himself not seeking their support as one of the reasons for staying away.
They have also expressed their strong opinion against certain statements by the Chief Minister recently against a section of Mandya Congress leaders.
There is much at stake for Kumaraswamy in Mandya as his son is the candidate there and winning the polls will establish JD(S)’ supremacy in the Vokkaliga bastion, where allthe eight MLAs are from the party.
In Tumkur, where JD(S) patriarch and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is contesting, the party is still not confident over Congress’ complete support.
Though several Congress leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara are campaigning for Gowda, sectionswithin the party are still upset over giving the seat to JD(S) by denying chance to sitting MP Muddahanumegowda.
Though Muddahanumegowda,who had filed his nomination as a rebel withdrew his papers, he and another prominent Congress leader K N Rajanna are not participating in campaigning.
With dissidence refusing to die down and transfer of votes between Congress and JD(S) crucial for them to outperform the BJP, both parties are worried that the dissidence may affect their performance.
Though the coalition has decided to jointly fight the polls, it is not something that workers of bothparties at the booth level, who have been fighting each other, agree with.
Congress-JD(S), that had fought bitterly against each other ahead of the May 2018 assembly polls, especially in old Mysuru region, joined hands to form an alliance as the election threw up a hung verdict.