Karnataka alliance on edge, fate rests on outcome in Mandya, Mysore

The survival of the Congress-JD(S) coalition has now become a subject matter of intense speculation.

On May 23,  the results of the ongoing general elections is likely to play a big role in deciding whether Karnataka’s Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition will hold.

If the results throw up a coalition government at the Centre with the Congress on the ruling side Karnataka’s coalition will be on surer footing.  On the other hand, if  the May 23 results in a coalition but with the BJP on the winning side that could unsettle the state’s alliance.

Notwithstanding  the overall results, what happens in Mandya and Mysore  Lok Sabha constituencies is likely to play a bigger role as the emotional quotient behind these seats is rather high.  For Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Mandya is probably where his biggest stakes lie as it marks the political arangetram of his son Nikhil Gowda.

It was not easy to get the Congress to agree giving up the Mandya seat to Nikhil.  For Sumalatha, the wife of  Kannada film star Ambareesh, was a strong contender and was bent upon contesting from the constituency of her husband who died in November last year.

Ambareesh was a Congress MP, MLA, a former minister at the Centre and the state and was hugely popular in Mandya.  The region is also a Vokkaliga bastion and the JD (S) had won the election from Mandya in 2014.  Though there was tremendous push from Sumalatha and the Congress which wanted to field her from Mandya to cash in on the sympathy factor,  Kumaraswamy was adamant on fielding his son Nikhil.

The result was it created bad blood in the constituency and dissension within the Congress local unit.  Sumalatha contested as an independent with the support of the BJP and she got the support of sections of the Congress in Mandya.  So this turned the constituency into a high-profile one in the state on which the JDS first family has personally placed its bets on.

The other one is Mysore, where the Congress lost to the BJP in 2014. This constituency which is considered the backyard of former chief minister Siddaramaiah has turned into a prestige issue for him and sections of the Congress. Since the Congress workers dissented in Mandya,  JD(S) workers in a tit-for-tit did the same in Mysore. A senior minister belonging to the JD(S) G T Deve Gowda publicly confirmed this recently. So the results of these two constituencies, if they go against the ruling alliance partners, can very well have a huge impact on the continuation of the coalition government.

Besides this,  the BJP has indicated that it will continue its attempts to poach legislators from the coalition.  Under instructions from the party central leadership,  the local leaders headed by former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has halted activities on this front until elections are complete on May 19. The party needs nine legislators to cross the mid-way mark of 112 in an Assembly of 224.

The Congress has 117 at the moment with one of them Ramesh Jarkiholi threatening to quit the party. On May 19, two Assembly by-elections are scheduled – in Chincholi and Kundgol.  These elections too are bound to  play a crucial role though two seats by themselves will not alter the majority status of the ruling coalition. If the BJP wins, it will make their job that much more easier.

Alternatively, if sense prevails and the JD(S)-Congress coalition decides to continue with the alliance and resist attempts from the outside to break it despite setbacks that might be thrown up on May 23 it would mark a new turn to Indian politics and for the future of coalitions. Though the chances are slim, as the saying goes, no possibility can be ruled out in Indian politics.

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