What AH Vishwanath as JD(S) chief means for its alliance with Congress

There is more to AH Vishwanath’s appointment than an attempt to wash away the tag of “father-son” party.
What AH Vishwanath as JD(S) chief means for its alliance with Congress
What AH Vishwanath as JD(S) chief means for its alliance with Congress
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"One thing the voters in Karnataka hate more that anything is dynastic politics. JD(S) withered away because it ultimately became a family-run political drama," a Congress leader had said during the campaign for the Assembly polls earlier this year.

In what seems like an attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of the party's image, the JD(S) appointed Adagooru Huchegowda Vishwanath, a veteran politician and a strong face of the Kurubas in the Old Mysuru region as its state President.

But there is much more to Vishwanath's appointment than an attempt to wash away the tag of "father-son party". JD(S) insiders say that in order to survive, the party has to also expand its base and work towards strengthening it at the grassroot level. The first step, JD(S) insiders say is to win local body elections.

On Sunday, JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister said that the party will not ally with the Congress to contest the 108 Urban Local Body polls slated to be held on August 29. 

"JD(S) and Congress have been rivals in the Old Mysuru region. Local body elections are always about grassroots leaders. Although the alliance at the state-level seems to be going steady, the party workers in many districts in both the JD(S) and Congress are not happy about allying with each other. Many have threatened to join BJP if pre-poll alliances are made," a Congress party worker said. 

JD(S) sources say that Vishwanath's appointment was to ensure that the party's expands its vote bank from just Vokkaligas. "The Adivasi and OBC votebanks have remained with the Congress. They have the support of Dalit groups as well but this has been fractured and many have moved to support the BJP. The task is to revive JD(S) into a strong regional party. AH Vishwanath is seen as someone who can take on Siddaramaiah, Parameshwara and other Congress heavyweights. His experience in strengthening voter bases is remarkable," the JD(S) source added.

Sources in the Congress revealed that although the party's high command had decided to form a pre-poll alliance with the JD(S) for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the local leaders are heavily opposed to it. "Congress has nothing to benefit from it. We will essentially be sharing our vote banks with the JD(S) and party workers are unhappy about it," a Congress leader said.

This pre-poll alliance would mean that Congress will have to compromise on putting up its candidates in several seats in the Old Mysuru region and make way for the JD(S). The negligible influence JD(S) holds in North Karnataka, will essentially have the Congress fending for itself in 13 districts in the north. "It doesn't make sense. Since everything is in the preliminary stage, it is very likely that the Congress may not ally with the JD(S) or the JD(S) may also pull back from the pre-poll allaince. If the alliance remains then Congress will lose Hassan, Mysuru, Mandya, Kolar and Chikkaballapura. Party workers will never allow that to happen. Besides, this will only lead to more infighting and the BJP will benefit from it," the JD(S) source said.

Political party insiders revealed that the possible power struggle with the Congress was also one of the reasons for Vishwanath's appointment. "He has been a cabinet minister in the Congress government (during SM Krishna's stint as CM), he knows the party inside out. He knows how to counter their moves. Congress and JD(S) have always been rivals. Vishwanath is close to Deve Gowda. He had managed to oust Prajwal Revanna from taking over his seat in Hunsur. He is a strong candidate to lead the party," the source added.

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