The Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) high command, up until recently, had high hopes — at least in public discourse — of winning around 120 seats out of the 224 in the Karnataka Assembly.
However, recent developments — of JD(S) leaders quitting the party or threatening to quit — hint at a different picture.
The most recent crisis erupted in Arsikere constituency where JD(S) MLA KM Shivalinge Gowda, on Wednesday, 1 March, announced that he would soon join the Congress.
He announced his decision after inviting around 3,000 of his supporters to his farmhouse in Arsikere recently — but JD(S) insiders say that the move has been in the works for at least a year now and the party was prepared for it.
“I have decided to join the Congress as per the wishes of my fans, supporters, leaders, and workers of my constituency. However, I will be serving as the MLA of the Arsikere constituency legally until the end of the calendar of events,” Shivalinge Gowda told South First.
Asked why he had decided to quit the JD(S), Gowda said he had no comment to offer, only reiterating that he was honouring the wishes of his supporters, leaders, and the workers of his constituency.
‘Not going to affect JD(S)’
Meanwhile, sources from the JD(S) head office predictably told South First that Shivalinge Gowda joining Congress would not affect the party in any manner, as it had its own alternatives.
The sources also stated that Shivalinge Gowda had not been attending any of the meetings called by the party over the past one-and-a-half years.
He stayed away whenever JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy or party chief HD Deve Gowda visited Arsikere for public meetings.
After another no-show by the MLA during Kumaraswamy’s most recent visit, the irked leader not only lashed out at Shivalinge Gowda but also hinted at naming another JD(S) candidate from the Arsikere constituency.
‘Differences with Revanna’
JD(S) spokesperson Rangothri Kumar told South First: “Shivalinge Gowda is a three-time JD(S) MLA from the Arsikere constituency. He is a 64-year-old senior JD(S) leader. It was from former prime minister Deva Gowda that he learnt how to deal with farmers’ issues in the state. Gowda has no issues or problems with the party or its leaders, but he has differences with [Deve Gowda’s son] HD Revanna, who is a domineering leader in the Hassan constituency.”
Shivalinge Gowda openly aired his differences with Revanna, and matters deteriorated after Revanna’s son became an MP from Hassan.
“Gowda has been contemplating moving to Congress over the past year, and now he has openly announced it. His decision is not going to affect the JD(S) in any way,” Rangothri Kumar contended.
Kumaraswamy exudes confidence
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy said more leaders and legislators might quit the JD(S) ahead of the Assembly polls in the state.
The former chief minister also said that the Karnataka Assembly poll schedule was expected to be announced by the Election Commission later this month.
“It is being said that the JD(S) is in the ICU, that it does not have strength, and that it may win 10-15 seats with great difficulty. Along with that, it is being said that many will quit the JD(S), giving it a shock. Some leaders had kept both their legs out of JD(S) for the last two years now, but were in the party for the sake of it, among them two-three people may quit in the next couple of days,” Kumaraswamy said.
Speaking to reporters in Mysuru, he said he was not giving priority to such things and was concentrating on strengthening the party with a target of winning 123 out of the 224 seats in the state and forming a government with an absolute majority.
Kumaraswamy also said the Election Commission might declare the dates for Assembly polls any time between 20 and 30 March.
Meanwhile, upset with the JD(S), Mysuru’s Chamundeshwari constituency MLA GT Deve Gowda openly expressed dissent against Kumaraswamy and other leaders of the party.
After the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in 2019, he declared that he was leaving the party. However, both HD Deva Gowda and Kumaraswamy visited his residence to convince him otherwise.
It was then that GT Deve Gowda decided to remain with the JD(S), and he is at present the face of the party from the Chamundeshwari Assembly constituency in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Kolar JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda was unhappy as he was not given a preferred position within the coalition government when it was formed in 2018.
He became disgruntled and started distancing himself from the JD(S). Srinivas Gowda is now eyeing the Congress.
Another disgruntled JD(S) MLA, AT Ramaswamy from Arkalgud, has said that he will definitely contest the upcoming Assembly elections, but is yet to decide which party.
(With PTI inputs)