It seems the Janata Dal (Secular) is in for an exodus of leaders because of its decision to join the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Several JD(S) leaders — predominantly from the minority community — are planning to quit the regional party en masse.
The decision comes after three leaders of the party — spokesperson UT Ayesha Farzana, Karnataka unit vice-president Syed Shafiullah Saheb, and general secretary M Srikanth — have already resigned.
Several minority-community leaders of the JD(S) met at the Kumara Krupa guest house in Bengaluru on Sunday, 24 September, to discuss their way forward with the party.
JD(S) working president NM Nabi, leaders Mohid Altaf, Naseer Ustad, and spokesperson Noor Ahmed, as well as leaders from the Davangere, Mysuru, Ramanagara, Raichur, Tumakuru districts of Karnataka, were all present at the meeting.
The leaders reportedly decided to initially tour the state and then tender their resignations en masse — which they referred to as a “secret weapon” that they were going to unleash in the near future.
It may be noted that this is not the first time the JD(S) has aligned with the BJP.
The two parties tied up in 2006 to replace the Congress-JD(S) coalition marking BJP’s first ever government in Karnataka, albeit in alliance. However, the JD(S)-BJP coalition government collapsed in 20 months when HD Kumaraswamy refused to pass on the post of chief minister to BJP’s BS Yediyurappa.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the JD(S) had formed an alliance with the Congress, but the BJP won 25 out of 28 seats in Karnataka while the regional party secured only a single seat. Even former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda was defeated in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Resignations begin already
The JD(S) has already seen a spate of resignations since its leaders announced a formal alliance with the BJP on Friday.
The first office-bearer to quit was JD(S) spokesperson from Mangaluru, UT Ayesha Farzana, who tendered her resignation to the party’s media cell chief Srikanth Gowda. She subsequently made public her resignation by putting up a post on social media.
Following this, senior JD(S) leader Syed Shafiullah, who happens to be the party’s Karnataka unit senior vice-president, tendered his resignation on Saturday.
Shafiulla, in his resignation letter, addressed to state unit president CM Ibrahim, stated that he had earlier stayed outside the party for the period during which the state unit had joined hands with the BJP to form government.
With the recent development — of HD Kumaraswamy joining hands with the BJP-led NDA ahead of the Lok Sabha elections — Shafiullah decided to cut his ties with the JD(S) once again.
Shafiullah told reporters about his resignation that he had been working for the JD(S) over the past 25-30 years.
“Our party stands on certain principles of secularism, and we have always propagated the principles of secularism to voters and the general public. Now, if my party is joining hands with an outfit that creates rifts between communities and castes, like it did in Gujarat in 2002 and is doing in Manipur and various other places in the country, where ‘double engines’ are working, then the secular forces are not going to abide by or agree with the BJP at all,” he said.
“The party wreaked havoc even in Karnataka just before the Assembly elections by creating controversies over the hijab, azaan, and halal-jhatka, and even boycotting smaller traders who make their livelihoods before temples and religious places,” noted Shafiullah.
“The BJP opposes Muslims and supports the people who are opposing them. This is detrimental to the progress of this country,” he added.
#WATCH | Bengaluru: On his resignation from the party, JDS Karnataka Vice President Syed Shafiulla Saheb says, “I was with the party for the past 30 years. Our party stand on secular credentials, and we have always propagated the principles of Secularism to the voters, and to the… pic.twitter.com/S2okhgTmA0
— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2023
The JD(S)’s Shivamogga general secretary M Srikanth also reportedly tendered his resignation on Saturday. There were rumours that a group of ex-MLAs and ex-MPs were contemplating leaving the party.
Karnataka JD(S) chief unhappy
According to sources South First spoke to, party chief CM Ibrahim is also reportedly unhappy with the JD(S) alliance with the BJP.
The sources hinted that if Ibrahim refused to resign, he would become “Roshan Baig 2.0” — a reference to Shivajinagar MLA Roshan Baig, who joined the BJP to save himself and his son from the alleged IMA scam that rocked Bengaluru.
It would also be curious to see if — and how — he could rejoin the Congress. However, there are high chances of him returning to the Congress fold, sources hinted.
Rumours are rife that the Congress is also thinking of welcoming Ibrahim back in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
However, there are also rumours that he would resign from the JD(S) and stay independent without joining any party.
South First attempted to reach CM Ibrahim, but his phone remained switched off. The JD(S) state president has also not made any statement about his next move.
Question of JD(S)’s existence?
JD(S) spokesperson Rangothri Kumar told South First that it was now a question of survival for the regional party.
“The JD(S) has carried a secular identity for about 35 years, and the Congress has been using us for the last 30 years,” he noted.
“It all boils down to one thing: The INDIA bloc could have easily invited and welcomed the JD(S), but chose not to do so this time due to reasons best known to it. JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda was also left embarrassed that a former prime minister was not invited to the INDIA bloc meeting in Bengaluru, when other leaders were invited without any bias for the oath-taking ceremony,” he explained.
“This is not the US, where two national parties can decide the fate of the country. There are regional parties like the JD(S) that do not allow the national parties to have full dominion over the states, and this is the beauty of democracy. It is now a question of survival for the JD(S), and we believe that this is not a long-term arrangement but only an alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Kumar told South First.
The spokesperson hinted that he, too, did not know whether he would be resigning from the party. He said several people — especially from the Muslim community — would be quitting the party because of its latest stance.
However, for Deve Gowda and his family, it was a question of the party’s survival and not ideology at this point. The party won just 19 of 224 seats in the Karnataka Assembly in the May elections.
Kumar noted that the party was a pro-farmer outfit, and also that it was Deva Gowda who as prime minister enacted reservations for minorities.
The JD(S) was now forced to join a party that was anti-farmer, he remarked, adding that it was in the interest of the state and its people, and for the existence of a regional party.
Another JD(S) spokesperson, Ambika Mani, told South First: “For the last Assembly elections, we were asked to work to bring the Congress to power. For this Lok Sabha election, we will be asked to work to bring the BJP to power.”
She added: “First of all, the party doesn’t pay for our work. We have to pay from our own pocket. And now, if it switches loyalty, how can we grow under such conditions? We are humans and are bound by ethics and moral obligations. How can we face the people?”
She added: “It’s shocking to hear that this secular party has joined the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and emotionally hurt lakhs of karyakartas. Sadly, Shafiullah and Farzana have resigned. As far as I know, Shafiullah served the party for a longer period. Although I am unhappy about it, I abide by the high command.”
Sources from the JD(S) said the minority communities had let the party down for the last three elections — two Assembly elections and one Lok Sabha election.
“The minority communities have been voting only for the Congress and not the JD(S). We lost by margins of around 3,000-4,000 votes in many constituencies that are Muslim pockets. Thus, the party chief feels there is no use for this secular identity anymore,” said Rangothri Kumar.
With the Congress in Karnataka winning 136 seats in the Assembly elections held in May, the national party seems to be on cloud nine and extremely confident.
However, JD(S) sources were sceptical of the Congress winning Lok Sabha seats in their strongholds like Hubballi-Dharwad, Mysuru, Mandya, Tumakuru, Kolar, Hassan, Chitradurga, and Belagavi.
The sources also told South First that senior party leaders refused to go along with former chief minister Kumaraswamy or his son Nikhil Kumaraswamy to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the BJP national president JP Nadda in New Delhi on Friday.
They were also not interested in Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s meeting with BS Yeddyurappa on Sunday.
According to Yediyurappa, Nikhil made a courtesy visit and had cordial discussions with him. He said Nikhil’s father Kumaraswamy had also called him.
“Kumaraswamy called me and asked me to visit his house. I will go there and talk to him. Now that we have formed an alliance, people should know about it,” the former BJP chief minister said.