The JD(S) joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has left the party’s Kerala unit and the LDF in a quandary.
In Kerala, the JD(S) is a constituent of the CPI(M)-led LDF, an alliance with a strong anti-BJP-RSS posture. Though reduced to a Karnataka-centric regional party, the JD(S) has significant clout in some pockets of central and north Kerala.
Incidentally, Kerala is the only state — barring Karnataka — where the JD(S) has MLAs. Its senior leader K Krishnankutty holds the important power portfolio in the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet. The party’s state president and former minister Mathew T Thomas is JD(S)’s other MLA in the state.
The party has control over two dozen local bodies and holds the chairmanship in several government-controlled corporations and public sector enterprises.
The JD(S) MLAs’ dilemma in Kerala
Despite getting clear hints of the HD Deve Gowda parivar-controlled JD(S) cozying up to the NDA, specifically after the forgettable elections to the Karnataka Assembly where it won just 19 of 224 seats, the Kerala unit failed to find an alternative.
When contacted, Thomas told South First that the state unit would endorse the decision to join the NDA for the time being, but would decide its future course at a meeting scheduled for 7 October in Ernakulam.
He felt the Kerala unit has two options: Form a Kerala-based regional party and continue in the LDF, or merge with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), another family-controlled political formation (headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar), but with strong secular credentials.
The JD(S) in Kerala has the record of merging with Nitish Kumar’s JD(United) and leaving it when the party joined the NDA.
In the case of Gowda’s party, it was the second time that the state unit decided against the organistion’s stand. It had earlier moved out of the party’s framework after it had allied with the BJP and HD Kumaraswamy became the chief minister of Karnataka with the saffron outfit’s support.
JD(S) to continue in LDF: Jayarajan
Meanwhile, LDF convener EP Jayarajan told South First that the JD(S) would continue to be a part of the Front, despite its national leadership aligning with the BJP.
“Krishnankutty and other JD(S) leaders in Kerala are known for their integrity and secular commitments. They have a long history of fighting and resisting the BJP-RSS’s politics of hate and communalism. The state unit has informed me that it will soon clarify its stand. It would continue to be a secular bloc in Kerala, committed to the LDF,” he said.
However, he refused to respond when asked about the possibility of the party’s national leadership issuing whips to the two MLAs in the Assembly, asking them to take a stand favourable to the BJP-led Union government.
Jayarajan said anti-defection rules may not apply to such regional parties, and the LDF would consult legal experts regarding the issue.
Meanwhile, political observers felt that a merger with the RJD would not be easy, as the Kerala unit of Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) would be joining the RJD in October.
With one MLA, KP Mohanan, the LJD, too, is part of the LDF. After winning the second consecutive election to the Assembly, the LDF advised both Janata parties to merge and become a single entity.
The LJD was also told that it would not get a Cabinet berth since the LDF was considering both parties as a single entity. Merger talks between the JD(S) and LJD took place until recently, but the parties could not arrive at a consensus over sharing power and positions.
After the talks failed, the LJD went ahead with its plan to merge with the RJD. If the JD(S), too, plans to merge with the RJD, it would have to go by the diktats of the about-to-be-merged LJD.
Incidentally, JD(S) found itself on a sticky wicket even as Thomas has been demanding a Cabinet berth, reportedly based on an earlier deal to hand over the position to the second MLA after completing 2.5 years.
Krishnankutty has been denying the demand, saying party supremo Deve Gowda had clarified that there was no such agreement. With Deve Gowda going the BJP way, Mathew’s demand would gain strength.
Meanwhile, experts said the anti-defection law would not allow the two MLAs to form a new party or merging with another party during their tenure. However, they could take a stand independent of their national leadership.