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Deal talk in Karnataka: Congress holds the cards as JD(S) drives hard bargain

Deve Gowda’s party finished behind Congress in 26 seats, hopes to gain in its bastion.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: March 8, 2019 7:12:21 am
Congress jds alliance, deve gowda, rahul gandhi, siddaramaiah, karnataka alliance, lok sabha pols, lok sabha poll alliance, lok sabha elections, general elections, indian express Rahul Gandhi with H D Deve Gowda in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

While the Congress and JD(S) are engaged in negotiations over the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies of Karnataka, the numbers from previous elections appear stacked against Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s party.

Barring the two Lok Sabha seats it won in 2014, the JD(S) was behind the Congress in all the remaining 26 Lok Sabha seats (even where the BJP won). In fact, the JD(S) finished runner-up in only one seat — Kolar — which was won by the Congress. On eight of the other seats won by the Congress, the BJP was second. The JD(S) was third in seven of them.

The BJP won 17 seats. In negotiations held with Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday, JD(S) supremo and former PM H D Deve Gowda scaled down his party’s demand from 12 seats to 10. The JD(S) also said the seat-sharing agreement would be announced by March 10.

The JD(S) is likely to retain the Hassan and Mandya seats it won in 2014. Hassan is a party stronghold and currently represented by Deve Gowda himself. It is speculated that his grandson Prajwal Revanna, son of H D Revanna, will contest from Hassan.

Mandya had seen the closest contest between the JD(S) (43.97 per cent votes) and Congress (43.5 per cent votes) in 2014. Deve Gowda had indicated that his other grandson, Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil, would contest from Mandya.

However, while the Congress could cite the 2014 performance to deny seats to the JD(S), especially where it has sitting MPs, the fact is that four of the nine seats won by the Congress — Chitradurga, Tumkur, Bangalore Rural, Chikkaballapur — fall under the traditional JD(S) stronghold of Old Mysore region. The JD(S) is given a better chance of winning five seats here, in what is the state’s Vokkaliga belt. Deve Gowda is a Vokkaliga.

Bangalore Rural is currently held by Congress’s D K Suresh, the brother of the Vokkaliga face of the Congress, D K Shivakumar. Kumaraswamy won this seat in 2009, but in a 2013 by-election, Suresh defeated Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita Kumaraswamy.

So instead of Bangalore Rural, the JD(S) is demanding Bangalore North, though its vote share has ranged from 6-18 per cent in the last three Lok Sabha elections. It also wants Tumkur where, in 2009 and 2004, the JD(S) had been the runner-up behind the BJP and got around 34 per cent of the votes.

The JD(S) is also said to be keen on contesting from Raichur and Bidar in the Hyderabad Karnataka region, and Udupi Chikmaglur and Uttar Kannada in coastal Karnataka.

However, the Congress is unlikely to give the Bidar seat, where it secured five out the eight Assembly seats last year. Similarly, in Udupi Chikmaglur and Uttar Kannada, the JD(S) has little presence.

The seats where the Congress has an edge are Chikkaballapur, Mysore and Shimoga. The party has not lost a Lok Sabha election in Chikkaballapur since 1998, and it is currently held by senior Congress leader and former Karnataka CM Veerappa Moily.

The high-profile Shimoga seat has traditionally been won by either the Congress or BJP, and is currently represented by former Karnataka CM and BJP leader B S Yedduyarappa. Mysore similarly has always swung between the two, and is currently represented by journalist-turned-politician Pratap Simha of the BJP.

The Congress would also claim Kolar. It got 37.16 per cent of the votes here in 2014 and the JD(S), that came second, 32.92 per cent. But this seat is a Congress bastion, and it has lost it only once, in 1984, to the Janata Party.

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