Cong workers demand to reconsider giving Tumakuru seat to JD(S)

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and Congress president Rahul Gandhi have reached a seat sharing agreement. PTI

Congress workers in Tumakuru constituency are upset over the party’s decision to cede the Lok Sabha seat to its coalition partner JD(S), which is contemplating to field former prime minister Deve Gowda from the constituency. About 150 Congress workers took to the streets on March 15 to protest in front of the district Congress office, and demanded to give the ticket to sitting MP SP Muddhanumegowda.

The protesting Congress workers said they would respect the party high command’s decision, but they still wish that the sitting MP is given the ticket for the Tumakuru constituency instead of a JD(S) candidate. Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, who hails from Tumakuru, has also reportedly requested the JD(S) to rethink its decision to take charge of the Tumakuru seat.

“Muddhanumegowda has done a lot of work for the constituency. He was instrumental in bringing HAL and ISRO projects to the district, which in turn created local jobs. So, it would be unfair for the party high command not to give him a ticket,” Rafeeq Ahmed S, former MLA of Tumakuru city told The Federal. He said it would be difficult for party workers to campaign if Muddhanumegowda is given a ticket for a different constituency.

JD(S) game plan 

JD(S), which has had a hard bargain with the Congress, has kept its option open as to where Deve Gowda will contest from. Since the coalition partners had seven out of eight assembly seats, they were confident that it would be safer for Gowda to contest from Bangalore North and challenge MP and Union minister Sadananda Gowda. Deve Gowda on March 13 officially announced that he would relinquish his seat in Hassan to make way for his grandson Prajwal Revanna.

While the JD(S) wants to cash in on the Vokkaliga votes in Bangalore North by combining the JD(S) and Congress vote bank, some are sceptical that the urban voters might reject JD(S) and choose BJP, considering the BJP government’s response to the recent Pulwama attack .

Year Winning party Winning Candiate Runner up  Runner-up candidate Winning margin
2014 INC Muddahaumegowda BJP GS Basavaraj 74041
2009 BJP GS Basavaraj JD(S) Muddahaumegowda 21445
2004 BJP S Mallikarjunaiah JD(S) Jagadeesh DL 1951
1999 INC GS Basavaraj BJP S Mallikarjunaiah 63937
1998 BJP S Mallikarjunaiah INC R Narayana 71187
1996 JD(S) CN Bhaskarappa BJP S Mallikarjunaiah 15712
1991 BJP S Mallikarjunaiah INC GS Basavaraj 18917

For Deve Gowda, a six-time member of parliament, Hassan has always been considered a safe seat. He won five times from Hassan and once from Kanakapura constituency during a by-election in 2002. So, it came as a surprise when JD(S) got the Tumakuru seat as well. JD(S) currently has three assembly seats and is banking on the rural votes which may go in favour of the party, if Gowda contests from Tumakuru.

Is Tumakuru safe for JD(S)?

JD(S) has never won from the Tumakuru seat after 1996. It was retained by the BJP and the Congress ever since, and leaders have jumped parties ahead of elections. In fact, GS Basavaraj, the BJP contestant from Tumakuru, was once with the Congress. It could also be a strategic move by the party to knock-off Muddhanumegowda, the 64-year-old who switched from JD(S) to Congress after the 2009 elections.

Muddhanumegowda contested under the JD(S) ticket in 2009. However, he lost to BJP candidate Basavaraj by 21,445 votes. After this humiliation, he fought under a Congress ticket in 2014 and defeated Basavaraj by 74,041 votes.

Eshwar Khandre, working president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, acknowledged the simmering tensions and said, it was natural that the party workers would be upset. “We have raised the issue with the high command and they will talk to JD(S) and sort out the issue. The party’s central election committee will meet on March 19 and then take a call,” Khandre added.

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