The rebellion in Cong, JD(S) shows why bitter rivals can’t be fair-weather friends

Even if leaders oblige, cadres will not- That's a lesson that the JD(S) and Congress are learning now.
The rebellion in Cong, JD(S) shows why bitter rivals can’t be fair-weather friends
The rebellion in Cong, JD(S) shows why bitter rivals can’t be fair-weather friends
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On May 15, 2018, as results of the Karnataka assembly polls trickled in, Congress and JD(S) leaders started hectic parleys. After a few phone calls, various leaders met at locations across Bengaluru and within a few hours it was announced that the Congress will allow JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy to become the Chief Minister and head a coalition government.

As leaders of both the parties posed for the cameras, raising their hands in solidarity, though there were murmurs among the cadres, the immediate reaction was one of euphoria- that no matter what, the BJP was stalled. But more than 10 months after that strategic decision, the Congress and JD(S) are finding that coalitions cannot be announced overnight, even if leaders oblige, cadres will not.

Of rivalry and rebellion

The Old Mysuru region comprising Mysuru, Mandya, Hassan, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Tumakuru, Ramanagara, Chamarajanagara and Bengaluru Rural areas has been the battleground for the Congress and JD(S) for decades, the BJP has only recently made inroads in the Mysuru segment.

The post-poll coalition was riddled with uncooperative leaders and severe infighting right from the beginning. However, one thing had kept the morale of the party workers going is that they believed the alliance was only to form a government. Never did many of them imagine that they would be asked to campaign and support candidates from a party that has been their nemesis.

This situation changed drastically when JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda and Congress President Rahul Gandhi announced in June 2018, that the Congress and JD(S) would contest the Lok Sabha elections not as rivals, but as coalition partners. This became a bitter pill for the party workers to swallow, which has resulted in massive rebellion.

Will the math translate to votes?

In Mandya, several Congress party workers are openly rallying behind the coalition’s rival – Sumalatha Amabareesh, an independent candidate and wife of late Congress minister Ambareesh. The situation is similar in Mysuru. The JD(S) party meeting in Mysuru on April 5 witnessed massive unrest among party workers. Slogans of “Modi, Modi”, were chanted by JD(S) party workers as they refused to work for the Congress candidate from the Mysuru-Kodagu segment – CH Vijayshankar.

In Tumakuru, the coalition’s candidate, HD Deve Gowda is also facing the heat, especially since the Congress party workers are refusing to offer their support. The situation is similar in Hassan where Congress workers are unwilling to cooperate and support the JD(S) candidate Prajwal Revanna.

This incident is a stark representation of the disagreement between the coalition partners – Congress and JD(S) at the grassroots level.

“The alliance was not formed on an ideological basis but on the basis of opportunity. The Congress and JD(S) more or less follow the same ideology and hence their rivalry is stronger because they fight for the same vote bank. If we look at the math the Congress votes must go to JD(S) in regions where a JD(S) candidate is contesting and vice versa. Looking at how the poll battles are playing out, the question is – will the perceived strength of the coalition transfer into votes?” asks political analyst Ashok Chandragi.

Why opportunistic alliances do not work

“In the Old Mysuru region, we have witnessed one phenomenon that can explain why the rivalry between the Congress and JD(S) party workers is so deep-rooted. Ever since the JD(S) was formed, whenever the Congress came to power in Karnataka, the JD(S) workers were targeted and cases were booked against them and vice versa. While the top leaders formed an opportunistic coalition, it was the party workers who had to run around courts and fight cases. This is why the rivalry cannot be easily erased,” says Mahadev Prakash, a political analyst.

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