Bengaluru, Mar 15, 2019 : When the seat sharing pact between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka was struck, it came as a blow to some JD(S) leaders as the party had given up the Mysore constituency to the Congress, Hindustan Times reported.
The JD(S) got eight of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state as part of the pact although it had initially sought 12, including Mysore, Mandya and Hassan in the Vokkaliga-dominated southern Karnataka.
However, former chief minister and Congress Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah, who hails from the district, had refused to yield the seat to the regional party as the Congress had already faced significant unrest among workers for not having staked claims on the Mandya and Hassan seats, where the JD(S) is the national party’s bitter rival.
Two senior JD(S) leaders and one Congress leader, all speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk about the deal, said former prime minister HD Deve Gowda decided to give up Mysore because Siddaramaiah was adamant that the Congress should not give it up.
Fought back after defeat
Siddaramaiah had been smarting from his defeat in the Chamundeshwari seat in Mysuru district in the assembly elections last year, when he was defeated by JD(S)’s GT Deve Gowda by a huge margin.
Since then, he has been actively trying to ensure that the JD(S) did not increase its clout in the district. This was especially true after he was promoted to become a member of the Congress Working Committee, the senior Congress leader said.
Last month, Siddaramaiah intervened to ensure that the JD(S) did not continue its alliance with the opposition BJP in the Mysuru Zilla Panchayat.
Last November, Siddaramaiah engineered a victory for the Congress in the Mysuru City Corporation by forcing partner JD(S) to concede the mayor post. There, too, the JD(S) had been in an alliance with the BJP. The decision had caused resentment among leaders of the regional party, including its local MLAs, as they had petitioned the JD(S) leadership to ensure that its candidate was made mayor.
With the retaining of the Mysore seat, Siddaramaiah proved once again that he would not easily give up on his home district, the senior Congress leader said.
Cost to Congress
The current deal has come at a cost though, with the Congress having to give up Tumkur seat to the JD(S), a seat it had won in 2014. A senior Congress leader said that the party high command held Siddaramaiah in high regard and although it was loathe to give away any of its incumbent seats, it was forced to do so in the face of Siddaramaiah’s insistence on Mysore.
“In meetings with the party leadership, Siddaramaiah had pressed the high command to draw a line on Mysore. It was clear that for him, it is a question of his legacy, especially because he was forced to contest a second seat in the assembly polls, and it appeared initially that the BJP and JD(S) were able to sideline him in the district,” the leader said.
Both the parties had agreed to contest together from the state when they formed a coalition in May after the state elections threw up a hung assembly. A JD(S) leader said the discussions on seat sharing had stalled because of the Mysore seat.
Workers of both parties had conveyed their anxiety to their respective leaders as the BJP had begun its campaign in the state in February. “In the end, we had to relent on Mysore because Siddaramaiah insisted that the seat was not up for grabs. If we had not, the discussions would have prolonged for a while longer,” the JD(S) leader, who was part of the negotiations said.
Deal sealed over phone
The seat sharing pact was finalised on Wednesday, when JD(S) national secretary general Danish Ali met Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the Kochi airport. A meeting earlier in the day between Ali and Gandhi had not taken place as the Congress president was scheduled to address a rally in Tamil Nadu.
In the half-hour-long meeting, Gandhi and Deve Gowda finalised the deal over a telephone after the former prime minister was advised that it was best to finish the discussions to begin the party’s campaign in earnest.
Another JD(S) leader said the uncertainty over seat sharing was causing problems for the regional party as with its limited resources, it was all the more imperative for it to begin its campaign earlier.
“In such situations, there will always be a give-and-take, but we have got Tumkur. So we must be happy with that. Of course, we had a strong claim on Mysore, but Siddaramaiah had his way in the end,” the leader, who hails from Mysuru district, said.
Though Siddaramaiah appears to have won the battle with the JD(S), he faces a stiff task in wresting control of the seat from the BJP, whose candidate Pratap Simha won the seat in 2014.
Since 1998, the BJP has won the seat thrice, and is a formidable opponent. Additionally, the Congress won just one of the eight assembly segments that are part of the Lok Sabha constituency in the 2018 state polls, while the JD(S) won three and the BJP won four.