Cong attempts to pacify rebels against Gowda to withdraw from fight

H D Deve Gowda. - The Federal
Deve Gowda in his statements made clear that the Congress-JD(S) coalition has hit a rough patch. Photo: PTI

With two days left for withdrawal of nominations for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, Congress leaders are making all attempts to pacify the party’s rebel candidates against former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, the ruling alliance’s nominee in Tumkur.

Defying the electoral arrangement under which Tumkur was allotted to JD(S), sitting Congress MP SP Muddahanumegowda filed his papers on Monday both as party candidate and also as an independent. KN Rajanna, another Congress leader and former MLA, has also filed his nomination from Tumkur as an independent candidate, opposing Gowda. Both leaders are upset against Congress’ decision to cede the Tumkur seat to JD(S), despite the party having its sitting MP there.

Pradesh Congress Chief Dinesh Gudu Rao expressed confidence about solving the issue amicably. “We are confident that it will be fine. I’m talking to him (Muddahanumegowda), I have 100% faith that there won’t be any problem,” he said. Responding to a question on Rajanna, he said, “I’m in touch with him and he has said that he will abide by the party’s stand and won’t take any decision against the Congress party… We will solve it definitely.”

Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, who hails from Tumakuru, also expressed confidence that Muddahanumegowda would withdraw in the larger interest of defeating the BJP. “I have spoken to Muddahanumegowda. I have also informed our high command and they will also speak to him. I’m confident that Muddahanumegowda being a gentlemen politician will withdraw in the larger interest to defeat the BJP,” he said. Muddahanumegowda is determined to contest, as he is the only member among 10 sitting Congress MPs from the state who have not got the ticket this time.

JD(S) bagged Tumkur seat after a hard bargain with the Congress as the grand old party did not concede Mysore, another seat it had demanded, due to strong resentment from CLP leader Siddaramaiah, as it is his home turf. Mysore and Tumkur both come under old Mysuru region, where the vokkaliga community, seen as a strong vote bank of the JD(S), is dominant. Congress too has considerable presence there.

Speaking to local news channels in Tumakuru, Muddahanumegowda said that he will not backtrack and will contest the polls as per the wish of his voters and supporters. Stating that he has filed his nomination, both as a Congress candidate and an independent, he said, “I did not get the Congress ticket till Tuesday evening (last day to file nomination), but both alliance partners still have a chance to declare me their candidate.”

Speaking to reporters Rajanna said his decision would depend on what Muddahanumegowda agrees to. Stating that he supports Muddahanumegowda, he said “I will wait for his decision… There is pressure on me to withdraw, but I have not decided yet…”

Deve Gowda opted for Tumkur seat over Bangalore North, another option that was available before him, after giving up Hassan Lok Sabha seat, that he had been representing, to his grandson Prajwal Revanna.

If Muddahanumegowda contests from Tumkur as a rebel candidate, it will add to the Congress-JD(S) coalition woes as the alliance is facing a backlash at several places,including Mandya and Hassan, with party workers unhappy with the seat arrangements. Tumkur will go to the polls in the first phase on April 18. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is March 29.