Since the formation of the Janata Dal Secular in 1999, the party has never won a single Parliamentary election from the Mysuru segment. By entering into a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in Karnataka, the party is trying to break the pattern and has demanded that the Mysuru-Kodagu ticket be given to a JD(S) candidate. This became doubly evident during the party meeting held in Mysuru on Friday. It was not Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy or even Deve Gowda, who was the centre of attention. The spotlight was on a 28-year-old political rookie, a man seen as Kumaraswamy's political heir-apparent - his son Nikhil Gowda.
"I do not have experience in politics. My grandfather Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister and my father HD Kumaraswamy has become CM of Karnataka twice. You (party workers) have brought up my father from this region. He is responding to all your troubles. I am only asking for a chance. If given, I will be in your service until my last breath," Nikhil Gowda told JD(S) party workers.
Although the programme was organised to felicitate Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) leaders lauded Nikhil's 'charisma and determination' to work for the farmers in the state.
"In 1996, I lost the Lok Sabha elections by a margin of 11,000 votes and the JD(S) has not won in Mysuru. The JD(S) party workers want Deve Gowda to contest from Mysuru and if not, then we want Nikhil Gowda to contest. I have told Deve Gowda to allow Nikhil to contest and also promised him that we will support him and ensure he wins," Chamundeshwari MLA GT Deve Gowda said.
The JD(S) caste calculation
By planning to field Nikhil Gowda from Mysuru with the support of the Congress, the JD(S) is planning to bank on the votes of the Vokkaliga and Kuruba communities in the region. "JD(S) has strong Vokkaliga leaders like AH Vishwanath and GT Devegowda. With the Congress support, we will have leaders like CH Vijayshankar, who has a strong base among the Kuruba community. It will be easy to introduce Nikhil Gowda into electoral politics since the Congress is not going to be the adversary this election. It will give him a chance to prove his mettle," a JD(S) source said.
Sources say that Deve Gowda however is skeptical about fielding more family members and taking on the tag of dynasty politics ahead of the election. JD(S) insiders say that Deve Gowda has plans of expanding the party in other states ahead of the election. "He is in talks with leaders in other states and if the dynasty politics tag sticks, he will face trouble convincing people to join the party," the source added.
Will the Congress agree?
Considered a power centre of the Congress since 1977, when HD Tulsidas swept the polls in Mysuru, the Congress stronghold was shaken up only during the 1998 polls, when BJP broke into the grand old party's bastion by fielding Kuruba leader CH Vijayashankar.
Ever since, the fight has always been between Congress and BJP in Mysuru.
"Fielding Nikhil Gowda from Mysuru will not sit well many experiences leaders. CH Vijayshankar had joined the Congress as the BJP chose to give the ticket to Pratap Simha instead in the 2014 polls. Vijayshankar is an aspirant. He has won two Lok Sabha elections and was a former minister in the BJP government in Karnataka. Leaders in the Congress do not want to give JD(S) the ticket. It will be like inviting your rival to use your bastion and profit from it. Even if the Mysuru seat is given to JD(S), fielding Nikhil Gowda will make a lot of people unhappy, even within the JD(S). This move will be seen as an insult to many senior leaders," a Congress source said.