With tensions simmering and apprehensions galore among the leaders of the Janata Dal (Secular) ever since it declared its alliance with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the regional party’s chief and former prime minister HD Deva Gowda seems to be finding it hard to keep the JD(S) intact and at least manage its survival in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The JD(S) joined the BJP-led NDA ahead of the 2024 elections on 22 September: Senior party leader and former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy met with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda in the national capital New Delhi.
The decision, it may be noted, came against the backdrop of the Karnataka High Court a couple of weeks ago rejecting the appeal Prajwal Revanna — the lone JD(S) Member of Parliament (MP) from the state — for a stay order on his disqualification as a Lok Sabha member over irregularities in his 2019 poll affidavit.
Revanna then knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court for a stay order, and the results were in his favour.
HD Deve Gowda appeared emotional on Wednesday, 27 September, while defending the decision to align with the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
He told reporters in Bengaluru that it was aimed at saving the party, and gave assurances that he and his party would stick to its secular credentials, never letting the minorities down.
The former prime minister also sought to clarify that the JD(S) was not power-hungry and did not practise opportunistic politics.
Deve Gowda also that he had not let injustice happen to any community whatsoever from this party in 50 years of political struggle.
Though a few reporters prompted him to speak in the regional language, Kannada, Deve Gowda continued speaking in English so that the exact message reached the Congress leadership in New Delhi.
“We have never done politics by even slightly letting up on our secular credentials, and there is no question of doing it in the future either. I’m saying this very frankly,” he asserted.
“Before Kumaraswamy met BJP leaders, I met the Union home minister (Amit Shah). There is nothing to hide. I spoke to him on the situation in Karnataka politics in detail,” he added.
“We are not power-hungry politicians. I have not met PM Modi. Yes, I did discuss [the tie-up] with the home minister, [interacting with him] for the first time in 10 years,” said the former prime minister.
“Even before taking the decision, I discussed with all the 19 MLAs and eight MLCs [of the party] and took their opinion. All of them said: ‘You should think of having an understanding with the BJP’,” he added.
VIDEO | “We are not power hungry politicians. I have not met PM Modi. Yes, I did discuss with the Home minister (Amit Shah) for the first time in the last 10 years. I explained him the Karnataka political situation. Even before taking the decision, I discussed with all the 19… pic.twitter.com/6BeQHGIv9f
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) September 27, 2023
‘Party has to be saved’
“After explaining the political situation in Karnataka to Shah, I told him I would send my son, who is leading the party,” said Deve Gowda.
He also noted about the JD(S): “This party, which has been in pain and struggling for decades, has to be saved. And there is no selfishness in this…. I took the decision.”
On Devadurga MLA and JD(S) leader Karemma Nayak expressing displeasure at her party’s leaders for forging an alliance with the BJP, Gowda said he spoke to her on Tuesday night.
He said she was with the party, would continue to stand with the leadership, and had only spoken about some local differences.
Asked about voices of revolt in the JD(S)’s Kerala unit, he said, “I have discussed with the friends in Kerala. I’m in a crisis, I will have to save the party in Karnataka. I’m ready to give up the party president post for Kerala leaders.”
Recalling that Kerala JD(S) leader Mathew T Thomas helped him save the party when Kumaraswamy aligned with the BJP in the past, he said, “I’m prepared to hand over the party to him.”
The JD(S), it may be noted, formed a government in Karnataka in coalition with the BJP for 20 months from January 2006, and with the Congress for 14 months from May 2018. HD Kumaraswamy was the chief minister in the latter instance.
Noting that there was no resistance from the party workers to the alliance with the BJP, Gowda hit out at the Congress and asked: “Who was responsible for the collapse of the Kumaraswamy government? What was the game plan behind it? Doesn’t the Congress leadership know this?”
He was referring to the 2019 political crisis in the state that led to the fall of the Congress-JD(S) dispensation, which had come to power only the previous year.
Gowda said he could bring up not one but hundreds of such examples of how the Congress let the JD(S) down.
“Rahul Gandhi came and said Deve Gowda is the ‘B-team’ of the BJP. This is the certificate given to me (by the Congress),” he said.
Kumaraswamy targets Congress
Meanwhile, his son Kumaraswamy said if he had gone with the BJP on the invite of Shah instead of Congress the in the run-up to the 2018 Assembly polls, he could have run the government for a full five years.
Accusing the Congress of destroying secular forces across the country, Kumaraswamy alleged they even tried to “finish off” the JD(S) after entering into an alliance with the party.
Stating that the JD(S) did not send Siddaramaiah out of the party, Kumaraswamy alleged that in 2004 Siddaramaiah had tried to meet the then BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu in Chennai to have an understanding and form a government. “Today, Siddaramaiah is preaching secular ideology to the JD(S),” he chided.
Asked about some minority leaders now planning to quit JD(S) following its alliance with the BJP, Kumaraswamy said, “Such things keep happening in politics. There is nothing big to it…. We have tried to explain everything to the minority leaders in the party, including JD(S) state president CM Ibrahim. We have not ill-treated anyone.”
Ibrahim has been conspicuous by his absence at recent party meetings, and is said to be upset.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday took a swipe at the JD(S), saying that it should not call itself a secular party after allying with the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
“They have now made an alliance with BJP for elections, what should we call them?” Siddaramaiah asked in response to questions by reporters in Chamarajanagar.
“Name says secular. Are they secular now? Should we accept what they say? Even after going with a communal party, still they are secular? Should we accept?” he fired at the party.
“Let them go with the BJP or anybody [else]. We don’t have objections. But they should not say they are secular. That’s all,” said the chief minister.
(With PTI inputs)