Bengaluru: For 14 months, they ran a government of ‘frenemies’ united against a common foe, the BJP. But after the fall of H.D. Kumaraswamy’s government, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are all but certain to part ways in Karnataka. There are no chances of the two parties contesting any election — bypolls or mid-term — together.
The Congress and the JD(S) are considered arch-rivals, especially in the Old Mysuru region, but forged a post-poll alliance after the BJP fell short of a majority in the 2018 assembly elections.
Congress leaders told ThePrint that the coalition made them feel chained down, and the fall of the Kumaraswamy government has “freed” them.
“They are off our back, and we can now work towards strengthening our cadre. We have to win back the support of our party workers, as many of them were disappointed when we joined hands with the JD(S),” said a senior Congress leader who did not want to be named.
‘Won’t beg for power’
JD(S) leader Tanveer Ahmed said if there are byelections, his party would put up candidates in constituencies which had been won by the Congress, such as Rajarajeshwarinagar, and expected the Congress to do the same in a constituency like Mahalakshmi Layout, which his party had won.
Another senior JD(S) leader said the party would go it alone, but added that the door wasn’t completely shut on a future coalition.
“If either party is able to win more seats than the BJP, another coalition may be considered. Until then, no partnership may be expected,” said the leader who too did not want to be named.
Ahmed also said the decision to join hands is entirely up to the Congress. “If the Congress thinks it is comfortable with the alliance, we are up for it. We came together to keep out communal forces. If not, we will go it alone, but we definitely are not begging for power,” he told ThePrint.
Damage to cadres
Senior Congress leaders pointed out that there had been a near-rebellion when the parties’ cadres were forced to collaborate and work for the coalition during this year’s Lok Sabha elections, after years of bitter battles.
A classic example of this took place in the Hassan region, the home of JD(S) chief and former PM H.D. Deve Gowda’s family. When forced to come together, both JD(S) and Congress workers revolted, with many refusing to work until Deve Gowda stepped in.
In Mandya too, rivalry between the workers of the two parties gave BJP-backed independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh a huge advantage.
JD(S) could see a split
The JD(S) meanwhile is faced with a bigger problem — the party may be heading for a split, with a few senior leaders turning to the BJP for support.
“Leaders such as Sa Ra Mahesh, G.T. Deve Gowda and C.S. Puttaraju are unhappy. Puttaraju is such a senior leader, and he was apparently insulted by (Kumaraswamy’s son) Nikhil,” said a party source.
“There are others too who feel that they are being taken for granted by the Deve Gowda family. That is why you heard G.T. Deve Gowda talk of supporting Yeddyurappa’s government. There may be a split in the JD(S), unless the senior Deve Gowda manages to convince the leaders to stay.”