The state of Karnataka has always seen two national parties dominating the political landscape of this southern state — the Congress and the BJP. Unlike the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, where regional parties rule the roost, the Janata Dal (Secular) that was founded by H.D. Deve Gowda, is a meagre player here.
But there is a growing need for a strong-independent political alternative, which could stand up for the aspirations of the people of the state. As a Kannadiga, I feel there is scope for a regional political party in the state that could fulfil the dreams of the youth and the poor of Karnataka, which the two national parties have failed in doing.
The parties’ high command and ‘big boss’ culture, political arrogance and ego stops them from thinking about the state. That is why a section of people, who were disillusioned with these national parties went with JD(S), but 21 years after its inception, the party is in tatters.
The regional party, with its pro-farmers agenda, gained much of its prominence among peasants and the dominant Vokkaliga community, to which Deve Gowda belongs, but has not been able to capitalise on the disillusionment among the masses against the two national parties. It has also not managed to breach or alter the political dynamics of the state.
The JD(S) has been unsuccessful in filling the large political void that exists due to the misdeeds of the ruling BJP and the earlier Congress regime, that people were forced to choose in the absence of a strong alternative.
The JD(S) got its initial success in the year 1999 when it won 10 seats in its first election. In the next assembly elections in 2004, the party won 59 seats, the highest-ever seat tally won by them, with an impressive vote share of over 20 per cent.
The state had thrown up a hung assembly then, with no party getting an absolute majority in the 224-member house. In a hung verdict, the keys of power were in the hands of the Deve Gowda clan.
The party struck an alliance with the Congress, to form a coalition government. The truce, however, did not remain after the JD(S) took back its support from the Dharam Singh government and eventually formed the government with the BJP.
This coalition too didn’t last long, with H.D. Kumaraswamy refusing to step down as the Chief Minister to pass on the baton to B.S. Yediyurappa after 20 months, a condition on which both parties had agreed upon.
In the successive elections, the party managed to hold on to its strongholds and win a respectable number of seats, but it has not been enough to form a government on its own. The regional party is limited only to a few pockets.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the state again threw a hung verdict with the Congress and JD(S) forming government with Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister but the alliance fell under its own weight after mass defections of MLAs to the BJP.
People in Karnataka disillusioned by BJP, Congress
At a time when the ruling BJP in the state has mismanaged the Covid pandemic and internal squabbles are going on in the party for the removal of BSY as the CM and, in the Congress, there is a fight for the CM seat between D.K. Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, the people of the state are in search of an independent political voice of their own.
This is where the JD(S) comes into the picture as a regional party. There is anger, a sense of frustration, disappointment and discontent on the ground among a large section of the people but the regional party has not been able to capitalise on this opportunity and present itself as a strong alternative to the BJP and the Congress.
Many like me, disillusioned with these national parties, see JD(S) as a political alternative. There is a political vacuum to be filled but the party has not been able to convince the voters and present itself as a viable political choice for them. Only a regional party can develop our state, stand against injustice meted out to the state and stand up for its language and culture. The states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bengal and Odisha have their own regional parties.
It’s the time to have an independent political voice of our state too, whose MLAs would do anything for the poor and the marginalised of the state.
It has been either BJP or Congress in the state but this game of musical chairs needs to stop and we need a courageous regional party who will stand up for our growing aspirations.
The people of a linguistic state have their own culture, language, aspirations and need a party that stands up to represent all these. The JD(S) must rejuvenate and present itself as a more acceptable and strong political force to reckon with.
Whether they would rise up to the expectations or walk into political oblivion, only time would tell.
Khalil ur Rehaman Savanur is a student of KSLUs Law School, Hubli