There is little doubt that the Janata Dal (Secular) — the JD(S) — is a fiefdom run by a single family.
However, in a move that has already created a flutter within the first family of the JD(S), patriarch HD Deve Gowda’s elder daughter-in-law Bhavani Revanna has declared herself the party’s candidate from the family bastion of Hassan.
The announcement flies in the face of the party leadership’s — from the same family — declaration that workers, and not family members, would be given priority this election season.
Bhavani, wife of JD(S) MLA and Deve Gowda’s son HD Revanna, on Tuesday, 24 January, positioned herself as the face of the party from the Hassan Assembly segment for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly polls in April-May.
This announcement came at a time when Deve Gowda’s younger son and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy was on a statewide tour campaigning for the party.
The cold war between the two daughters-in-law of the JD(S)’s first family is no secret in Karnataka’s political circles.
Bhavani’s announcement came barely weeks after younger daughter-in-law and incumbent MLA Anitha Kumaraswamy said she would not contest from the Ramanagara constituency and would pave the way for her son Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s candidature.
Revanna’s relatives vs Kumaraswamy’s kin
“The party leaders have decided to field me as its candidate for the Hassan segment in the forthcoming Assembly polls,” Bhavani Revanna, a former member of the Hassan Zilla Panchayat, told reporters in Hassan on Tuesday.
She added: “Of the total seven Assembly segments in the district, the BJP managed to win only in Hassan in the 2018 polls.”
She then sprung the full surprise: “The discussion has happened in the party and it has been decided to field me as the JD(S) nominee from the Hassan Assembly constituency. My name will be officially declared in the coming days.”
In December last year, the JD(S) announced its first list of candidates with 93 names. Father-son duo HD Kumaraswamy and Nikhil Kumaraswamy already featured in this list.
The party left out Hassan and its neighbouring areas, which were assumed to be under the control of HD Revanna and his family.
“The final list is likely to be declared by mid-February,” claimed party sources.
Bhavani Revanna now wants to contest the elections from this family bastion of Hassan.
Bhavani is also the mother of Prajwal Revanna, the Lok Sabha member from Hassan, and the segment’s MLC Suraj Revanna. HD Revanna is the MLA from the Holenarasipura constituency in Hassan district.
Stating that she had already started touring the Hassan Assembly constituency, Bhavani said: “I am aware of the people and the villages in the segment. It will be helpful for me to work in the coming days.”
The BJP’s Preetham Gowda is the incumbent MLA from the Hassan Assembly constituency — the only seat that the saffron party managed to win in the district in the 2018 Assembly polls.
The remaining six segments in the district are represented by the JD(S).
Bhavani’s declaration sends shockwaves
This development has shocked a section of the party workers, including Kumaraswamy himself.
Earlier, it had been said that only HD Revanna and Kumaraswamy from former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s family would contest the elections.
However, in the Pancharatna Yatra, Anitha announced her son Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s candidacy from her own Ramanagara segment in her place.
It was then decided that only three people from the Deve Gowda family would contest in the Assembly elections.
Now, Bhavani declaring that she will be a candidate from Hassan has not gone down well with a section of the party leaders.
Responding to the development, Kumaraswamy told reporters: “An appropriate decision will be taken by the party in this regard, keeping in mind the organisation and the message that needs to be sent out to people ahead of polls.”
He added: “Everyone has the right to contest polls in our system. She wants to contest. Is it wrong to have a desire?”
He, however, hinted that the party was yet to take a final call on fielding Bhavani from Hassan.
Party leaders refrain from commenting
In the past, many party workers expressed dissent over the JD(S) preferring Deve Gowda’s family members over other party members as candidates.
On Bhavani’s statement, many party workers refrained from making any comments, reasoning it was a family matter.
On condition of anonymity, a JD(S) leader told South First: “Initially, it was decided to field only three members from Deve Gowda’s family in the April-May Assembly polls. As Anitha Kumaraswamy announced that she would not contest in the polls, the party preferred Nikhil.”
Another JD(S) leader said: “Bhavani Revanna is a senior member of Deve Gowda’s family. The family will take a final call on fielding her. It is a family matter. We neither have a right to comment on this nor object to her candidacy.”
Another MLA from North Karnataka told South First: “Hassan is dominated by the JD(S). The party leaders will discuss and take a final call. There is also a necessity for the party to send a message that it is not confined only to Deve Gowda’s family. I believe the party leaders will take the right decision on the matter.”
The JD(S) dilemma for Hassan
Former Hassan Zilla Panchayat vice-president HP Swaroop was an aspirant from the JD(S) for the Hassan Assembly segment. He is the son of the late HS Prakash, who himself was once an MLA.
Swaroop told reporters: “After the statement from Bhavani Revanna, there seems to be confusion among people and the party workers. However, let the party officially declare the candidate for Hassan.”
He added: “I have high regard for Deve Gowda and Revanna. There is no question of switching loyalty to another party.”
Swaroop also said that irrespective of the party’s decision, he will remain with the JD(S).
Expressing dissent over Bhavani’s statement, a JD(S) leader said on condition of anonymity: “The party was planning to field Swaroop from Hassan. He has been preparing for the Assembly polls for the past three years. Bhavani declaring herself as the candidate will not only affect party workers but will also mar the party’s image.”
Six members of Deve Gowda’s family in power
No family in Karnataka is as politically dominant as Deve Gowda’s clan. A record number of people from the family are now in power in the state and the Centre.
- JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda is a member of the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka.
- Deve Gowda’s elder son HD Revanna represents the Holenarasipura Assembly segment.
- His younger son HD Kumaraswamy is an MLA from the Channapatna Assembly segment.
- Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha Kumaraswamy represents the Ramanagara Assembly constituency.
- Deve Gowda’s grandson Prajwal Revanna is a Lok Sabha member from Hassan.
- Another grandson Suraj Revanna is a Member of the Legislative Council.
(With inputs from PTI)