On Tuesday morning, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President (KPCC) Dr G Parameshwara received a brief note from JD(S) supremo HD Devegowda.
The note invited the Congress for talks to form a coalition for the upcoming election.
“JD(S) is ready to form an alliance with Congress. Let the Congress discuss how many seats it will concede to us and how many seats JD(S) has to concede to the Congress. Since Congress is the larger party, it can send its list first,” the note said.
Simultaneously, at a press conference in Mysuru, JD(S) President HD Kumaraswamy said that the party would fight the election alone and would not align with the Congress.
To a political novice, it may seem that the son and father were speaking at cross-purposes, but for those who have dealt with the JD(S) for decades, Gowda’s note came as no surprise.
A JD(S) leader conceded that the note was because of Rahul Gandhi’s harsh criticism calling the JD(S) – Janata Dal Sangh Parivar.
“Now Devegowda can say that he offered to tie up with the Congress and form a secular front, but the Congress refused the offer,” the source added.
A tie-up with the JD(S) could be crucial for both BJP and Congress in the state. But the Congress leadership for now believes that all its might should be used to crush the JD(S) in its strongholds and any talks of an alliance can happen after the results are announced.
Congress sources close to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah say that the CM and the party perceive JD(S) as prime opponent in the upcoming elections and not the BJP. Internal surveys commissioned by the KPCC and the state intelligence suggest that the best way for the Congress to win a simple majority would be to crush the JD(S).
“The KPCC commissioned a survey in which the sample size for each constituency was about 1,000. This gave us fairly accurate results and it shows that we will get a simple majority. Internal surveys also showed that there is no anti-incumbency for the government but for a select few sitting MLAs. Out of 224 constituencies, we know that the BJP strongholds cannot be penetrated, no matter what,” a veteran Congress leader said.
According to Parameshwara, the party’s internal survey showed that the Congress would face a tough fight in 78 out of 224 constituencies in the state. The KPCC President said that these 78 constituencies were primarily located in Bengaluru Urban, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Doddaballapura, Chitradurga, Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Ramanagara, Tumakuru, Mandya, Hassan and Bengaluru Rural districts.
“In these districts, the fight is going to be between the JD(S) and the Congress. Even in the election campaign in these areas, the party is targeting JD(S) and not the BJP. We have realised that overconfidence could lead to the Congress’ downfall and we are mindful of it. We have also realised that in some BJP strongholds it is just not possible to win and so we have let it go,” Parameshwara said.
Sources close to Siddaramaiah said that it was the CM’s strategy to capture the secular vote bank by defeating the JD(S) on its home turf.
“Several independents and Left parties have approached us and said that they will support us to form a secular front against the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. We have agreed to it but in order to emerge as the only secular party, we have to defeat the JD(S). To be honest, defeating the JD(S) is easier than trying to regain lost vote banks within a span of six months,” the Congress leader said.
The state election selection committee has already sent the list of potential candidates to the high command. Of the several names sent, around 25 of them belong to sons/daughters/relatives of veteran Congress leaders. The committee has also recommended the names of all sitting MLAs.
“Around 30 sitting MLAs face anti-incumbency. We have suggested alternative candidates as well. The central selection committee will screen the candidates on April 9 and 10, and by April 15, the list will be announced. Yes, sons and daughters of leaders have been suggested. The high command will select candidates only on the winnability aspect. Nothing more,” Parameshwara added.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, seven JD(S) lawmakers resigned from the party, a day after saying they voted for the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls, and joined the Congress on Sunday. The seven legislators are BZ Zaheer Ahmed Khan, R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy, N Chaluvaraya Swamy, Iqbal Ansari, HC Balakrishna, Ramesh Bandi Siddegowda and Bheema Naik.