JD(S) Kerala wants its ministership, scraps plan to float regional outfit after parent party’s NDA tie-up

MLA Thomas and minister Krishnakutty don't want to step down and contest byelections given the anti-incumbency LDF faces in Kerala.

ByK A Shaji

Published Oct 29, 2023 | 8:15 AMUpdatedOct 29, 2023 | 9:32 AM


The Kerala unit of the JD(S) is still unsure about its plans to deal with the situation brought about by party national president HD Deve Gowda’s coalition with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Karnataka.

Despite much anticipation, a leadership meeting in Kochi on 27 October, failed to produce a workable plan to resolve the crisis that Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy created when they stated they had no problem with the Kerala unit remaining an alliance partner of the state’s ruling LDF — which is virulently opposed to the BJP.

Also read: JD(S) in Kerala looks for ways to sever ties with Deve Gowda & Co

No separate regional party

The two top leaders that represent the JD(S) in the state Assembly are Mathew T Thomas, the party’s state president, and K Krishnankutty, the state minister of electricity. The party has been a longstanding member of the LDF, which is controlled by the CPI(M).

Krishnankutty JD(S)

K Krishnankutty, Janata Dal (Secular) minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet. (Supplied)

Thomas claimed that, at least for the time being, the leadership meeting has scrapped its previous proposal to establish a separate regional party.

Additionally, it decided against merging with any national party that had socialist credentials, such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) of Akhilesh Yadav.

Mathew told South First that the state unit would adhere to the JD(S)’s National Plenum resolution, which had made it clear that the party would not be associated with the BJP or its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), under any circumstances.

Additionally, he stated that the leadership also decided that the state unit would not be associated with Deve Gowda.

“Going by the National Plenum’s resolution, we are the original JD(S). We will operate as the genuine JD(S), dedicated to secularism and inclusive ideals, and we are in contact with leaders in other states who disagree with Gowda’s coalition with the BJP,” he stated.

Also read: Deve Gowda ousts CM Ibrahim for dissent against BJP alliance

The anti-defection law

By adopting this stance, the party hopes to preserve Krishnankutty’s ministership, besides preventing the dismissal of Mathew and him by the national leadership in accordance with anti-defection legislation provisions.

The Kerala unit has moved cautiously because of the possibility that the national leadership, which includes Gowda and Kumaraswamy, could use the anti-defection act against the minister and the party state president.

Constitutional and legal experts claim that Gowda’s letters as the party’s national president served as the basis for assigning the party symbol by the election commission to Thomas and Krishnankutty in the previous Assembly election.

Gowda is still the national president of the party, and Kerala’s legislators are still required to follow his decisions.

Consequently, the two MLAs would be unable to defect to a different party before the current Assembly ends.

Also read: Kerala CM criticises NCERT panel’s ‘Bharat’ recommendation

Not risking byelection

It would be dangerous to step down from their positions and face a byelection given the state’s current political atmosphere of anti-incumbency, and the LDF is opposed to the idea.

Mathew T Thomas, stat president and MLA of Janatha Dal (Secular) in Kerala.

Mathew T Thomas, state president of the Janata Dal (Secular) in Kerala. (Supplied)

Nonetheless, the party state unit’s current move is opportunistic as, according to the law, it must acknowledge Gowda’s leadership while continuing to act aggressively against the BJP-RSS in the state.

“We shall proceed based on the resolution passed by the plenum,” insisted Thomas after what was the third meeting this month of the state unit to deliberate over the next steps after Deve Gowda’s decision to join the NDA.

“We are a state-level party and not a national entity,” added Thomas. “We will consult with national leaders who oppose Gowda in order to come up with an alternative.”

Thomas responded that the party would persuade the CPI(M) and other LDF constituents about the realities of the situation when asked if the current decision would be acceptable to them.

Also read: BJP’s Anil Antony slammed for spreading misinformation 

Infuriated CPI(M)

Gowda’s recent assertion that his party’s alliance with the BJP in Karnataka has the backing and endorsement of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had infuriated the CPI(M).

The statement has sparked angry responses from Vijayan, a CPI(M) Politburo member.

The comment gave Kerala unit of the Congress a reason to doubt the Left’s determination to confront the Sangh Parivar.

Congress even went so far as to ask Vijayan to remove the minister of JD(S) from his Cabinet.

However, once the JD(S) Kerala unit made it apparent that it was against Deve Gowda’s coalition choice, the CPI(M) in Kerala decided to retain the minister.

Also read: ‘Suicidal’, say leaders of both parties over BJP-JD(S) alliance

The options

There were discussions about a potential merger with Akhilesh Yadav’s SP within the organisation, party sources told South First. Some leaders felt that the SP, which is well-known for its anti-BJP stance, was a true inheritor of the Janata Parivar’s secular and socialist legacy.

The party has also considered a return to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), which its present leaders abandoned following the latter’s 2017 coalition with the BJP. After that, the leaders decided to become the JD(S).

There was also a chance that they may combine with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav.

However, nothing came of it because of the fear of the anti-defection laws.

The demand of some party officials to establish a regional Janata Party with headquarters in Kerala that would not clash ideologically with the LDF — especially with its main ally, the CPI(M) — was likewise shelved.

Also read: Kerala HC dismisses MLA Ganesh Kumar’s plea 

‘Essential component of LDF’


Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Photo By K B Jayachandran

“We refuse to form any coalition with the BJP. We are an essential component of the LDF,” Thomas said.

The CPI(M) has been finding it difficult to maintain the arrangement with the Krishnankutty group due to the Congress-led UDF Opposition accusing the party of not severing ties with the JD(S). The CPI(M) has not yet responded to the most recent event.

In the meantime, the UDF stepped up its campaign in Kerala, claiming that the BJP and the ruling CPI(M) were in league with one another through the JD(S).

Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan told South First that Vijayan has long wanted to reach a deal with the BJP in order to avert probes by central investigative agencies.

The JD(S) state unit has decided to host a Palestine solidarity protest in the state shortly in order to demonstrate its secular credentials.