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Aruna Urs Brings You The Latest From Karnataka’s Politics And Calls The Election

JD(S) got both cash and caste wrong

The tension is palpable at the main roundabout in Nagamangala town in Mandya district. Groups of people at the teashops and bakeries are discussing the election. For Siddaramaiah to unlock the record books of history firmly shut since 40 years, it increasingly appears that Old Mysuru region, the bastion of JD(S) holds the key.

While on paper, Nagamangala is a straight fight between Congress candidate Cheluvanarayana Swamy and JD(S) nominee Suresh Gowda, but on the ground, it has turned out to be an epic personal battle between Janata Dal supremo HD Deve Gowda and Cheluvanarayana Swamy, the face of Janata Dal in Mandya up until recently. The JD(S) supporters are angry that he, along with six other sitting MLAs, moved to Congress recently. Zameer Ahmed and Magadi Balakrishna are the other prominent members who made the move. The trio was instrumental in stitching up the JD(S)-BJP alliance in 2006 that enabled HD Kumaraswamy to become Chief Minister in his first term as an MLA. The bonhomie, however, did not last long and since 2014, serious differences crept up between the rebels and the JD(S) leadership over party’s many decisions.

In the Mandya district, Vokkaligas are predominant in six of the seven constituencies. In the lone Scheduled Caste reserved constituency, they are the swing voters. In other parts of Old Mysuru region, JD(S) needs the support of other castes and communities as Vokkaligas are not enough to win on their own. But by design or default, JD(S) has increasingly branded itself more as a Vokkaliga party than a regional political outfit. Only lately it realised the chinks in its armour that resulted in a hurried alliance with BSP and support of Asaduddin Owaisi. However, the void remains as most Dalit and Muslim leaders fear that in case of a hung assembly, JD(S) will again tilt towards BJP, as they will have an upper hand in bargaining for power than with Congress. That fear has only increased as opinion polls one after another projected an unclear mandate. Such are the side-effects of opinion-polls! Repeated assurances by H D Deve Gowda have failed to soothe.

While it appears that there was co-ordination by JD(S) and BJP in ticket distribution where either one has a better chance of winning, it too is not working out well on the ground. Vote base of BJP in Mysuru region is not significant. In Periyapatna, the BJP put up a young Kuruba candidate in a bid to split the community’s votes that go en-bloc to Congress. Manjunath, a realtor from Bengaluru, made a spectacular show by arriving in a chopper to file his nominations. But his campaign is yet to take off. Despite all the handicaps, JD(S) was putting up a spirited show as Kumaraswamy remains popular. But the campaign is fizzling out as the contest enters the last mile dash.

There is also a deep distrust of Vokkaliga politics by OBCs and Dalits, and that distrust is mutual. While Vokkaligas nurse a fear that five more years of Siddaramaiah will only benefit the Ahinda (the cast combination of Dalits, Minorities and OBCs), the Ahinda worries that another term for BJP-JD(S) will only benefit the Lingayatas and Vokkaligas.

There were high hopes in the party workers that BJP would underwrite polling expenses in key constituencies as any gain for JD(S) will come at Congress’ expense. Elections in Karnataka are, unfortunately, horribly expensive. Caste combination is not the only sufficient condition to win. Cash is equally important. It increasingly appears that JD(S) has got both these conditions wrong. Even in Mandya where the battles are between Vokkaligas candidates, JD(S) is having its hands-full in five constituencies except in Mandya city and Maddur. Majority of the voters weigh the pros and cons of the candidates than blindly vote for the party. In 2014 parliamentary elections, Ramya, the social media chief of Congress, lost the election by a slim margin of about 5,500 votes.

It was the paucity of resources that forced Kumaraswamy to make a public appeal to elect him if they want him to live longer yesterday. His father HD Deve Gowda has done this once and it wasn’t effective. It is another matter than Kumaraswamy is on a pacemaker. But there’s a silver lining in all dark clouds. Post elections, one can only hope that JD(S) will shed the Vokkaliga tag and be a regional party outfit and slowly begin occupying the BJP vote base. JD(S) as a main opponent of Congress will lead to a better Karnataka as issues raised will revolve around development than the communalism hawked by the BJP.

As far as Congress is concerned, Siddaramaiah will create history on 15th May.

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