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Why Karnataka bypoll duck could spell ‘beginning of the end’ for Deve Gowda’s JD(S)

Former PM H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) is faced with constant erosion in its support base, and did not manage to win even a single seat in Karnataka bypolls.

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Bengaluru: Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) is staring at a bleak future, with a constant erosion in its influence and support base in Karnataka.

In the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, the party had faced embarrassment when it won just one seat, and Deve Gowda and his grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy both lost. Now, after drawing a blank in the 5 December assembly by-elections, Deve Gowda and the party will have to do some serious introspection.

JD(S) spokesperson Tanveer Ahmed, who lost the bypoll in Shivajinagar, sounded a warning bell for the party.

“I wouldn’t call it the endgame, but if we do not revive now, this is the beginning of the end,” Ahmed told ThePrint.

Vokkaliga support no more

Over the course of the two elections this year, the parliamentary polls and the assembly bypolls, the Deve Gowda family seems to be losing its credibility and support in its bastion, the Old Mysuru region. Party sources say the family, which has held sway over the dominant Vokkaligas for decades, seems to have upset the community by aligning with any party for power.

Vokkaligas are one of the two dominant communities in Karnataka that can make or break governments, the other being the Lingayats, who are traditionally BJP supporters and have their own leader in B.S. Yediyurappa.

Of the 15 seats that went to the bypolls on 5 December, four were JD(S) strongholds — Hunsur, Chikkaballapur, KR Pet and Hoskote — but the party was placed either second or third in each of them. The BJP, meanwhile, made significant inroads into the Vokkaliga belt, winning KR Pet thanks to JD(S) rebel Narayan Gowda.

In seats such as Ranibennur, Yellapur and KR Puram, NOTA got more votes than JD(S) candidates.

In Ranibennur, JD(S) candidate M.R. Halageri secured 979 votes while NOTA received 1,608; in Yellapur, A. Chaithra polled 1,235 votes while NOTA received 1,444; in KR Puram, C. Krishnamurthy secured 2,048 votes to NOTA’s 5,168. None of these seats are JD(S) bastions, but the numbers show the erosion in support for an important state party.

“The 2024 elections may be the last for Deve Gowda, and we are not sure if he will be able to travel around and campaign. It is virtually the end of the JD(S), and (Deve Gowda’s son and former CM) H.D. Kumaraswamy has not been able to establish himself as a leader,” said political analyst Ramakrishna Upadhya.

“(Kumaraswamy) has been losing elections in the Vokkaliga heartland, and it shows that Vokkaligas are not ready to accept him as a leader as they no longer trust the family.”

‘Family enterprise’

In Karnataka, the JD(S) has made politics a ‘family enterprise’. Detractors often call it the Appa-Maga (father-son) party, or expand the abbreviation JDS as ‘Just Deve Gowda and Sons’.

Almost every member of the Deve Gowda family is in politics — sons H.D. Revanna and Kumaraswamy, daughters-in-law Bhavani Revanna and Anitha Kumaraswamy, and grandsons Prajwal Revanna and Nikhil Kumaraswamy.

So, when an emotional Deve Gowda stood in his pocket borough Hassan almost choking with tears, saying he was pained by the allegations that he was a political dynast, many called it “crocodile tears”.

“Both Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy cry and try to win hearts, but as soon as they are in power, they forget the electorate and concentrate on furthering their political aspirations,” said Karthik Gowda, a resident of Mandya district and a long-time JD(S) voter who opted to vote for the BJP in the bypolls.

Some claim the JD(S) was taught a lesson in the parliamentary elections when it won just one seat out of the state’s 28, with Deve Gowda himself losing from Tumkuru. The lone winner was Prajwal Revanna from Deve Gowda’s old seat Hassan.

Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil lost in Mandya to BJP-backed Independent Sumalatha Ambareesh, wife of the late Congress leader M.H. Ambareesh, which was another major blow to the JD(S) in the Vokkaliga heartland.

Internal revolt

The JD(S) has also witnessed a lot of internal revolt, with many Deve Gowda loyalists and senior leaders claiming to be sidelined. A.H. Vishwanath, the former JD(S) state president who rebelled and joined the BJP to contest the bypolls, also alleged that he was not being taken into “confidence” by the Deve Gowda family.

Deve Gowda loyalist Y.S.V. Datta, after his assembly poll defeat to the BJP in Kadur in 2018, had blamed Kumaraswamy for the loss. After the bypoll results Monday, Datta said: “There is a need to take some hard decisions as it has become increasingly difficult to save the party. I will be telling our supremo Mr Deve Gowda that if these hard decisions are not taken, the party will fall apart.”

Another senior leader who did not wish to be named said: “There is growing rebellion in the party. This loss in the by-elections will deepen the cracks. Many of the loyalists have left the party due to Kumaraswamy’s ‘use-and-throw’ attitude.”

Also read: Karnataka bypoll success a reminder that ‘fighter’ Yediyurappa is indispensable for BJP

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  1. Only BJP and leftist are not family drama parties. Congress, DMK, SP, BSP, Shiv Sena, LJP, TMC, SAD, BLD, etc are dynastic parties and there is no scope for workers in these parties.

  2. A very good article reflecting the facts. It is almost like a family fiefdom. People taught a lesson & now they must have realized that they cannot fool all the people all the time. More recently before the election in a party meeting presided by Deve Gowda the workers revolted & asked Deve Gowda & his son why the sr. party workers & loyalists who were instrumental for winning the elections all these years ignored when the coalition formed.

    Further they asked forget about ministries but not even chairmanship of various boards were not allotted to any such workers, which was cornered by their family members,relatives & coteries Deve Gowda or his sons could not able to answer slowly Deve Gowda slipped out of the meeting in utter silence so the meeting ended then & there.

    Better the SS in Maharashtra should learn a lesson from this & mend themselves to avoid routed out from the politics. Tx

    • Oh article or long reply about JDS after this bye poll.. Tx both… can any one forget pulling out from bjp after 2.5 years in power… God saved Karnataka from JDS this time

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