In what was a repeat of 2016, the Janata Dal (Secular) failed to secure a victory for its lone candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls in Karnataka. While the BJP won three seats and Congress one, the JD(S) drew a blank, let down by its own MLAs’ cross-voting.
The Rajya Sabha results in the state point to the weakening of the leadership in the JD(S), according to reports. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, his sons H D Kumaraswamy, a former Chief Minister of Karnataka, and H D Revanna, an ex-minister of the state, could not stop their two MLAs from cross-voting.
K Srinivas Gowda, the JD(S) legislator from Kolar told the media that he voted for the Congress as he “loves it”. The other MLA, from Gubbi, S R Srinivas reportedly voted for the BJP. In 2016, eight JD(S) MLAs had cross-voted as its candidate B M Farooq was defeated.
The BJP’s victory in the third seat, despite having only 31 spare votes compared to the 32 votes of the JD(S) and 24 for the Congress, reveals the shifting sands in the fortunes of the JD(S) and its leadership, according to an Indian Express report.
While the ruling BJP and the Congress, the primary Opposition party in Karnataka, managed to ensure that the first preference votes (121 MLAs for the BJP and 70 MLAs for the Congress) were all cast for their own candidates, the JD(S) was not able to retain the support of all its MLAs, it added.
Exploiting JD(S) weakness
Sources familiar with the strategies involved in the Rajya Sabha polls in Karnataka told the newspaper that several forces cutting across political parties had come together to exploit the weaknesses in the JD(S) to prevent a win for its candidate Kupendra Reddy who has declared ₹815 crore of wealth.
Sources also said that the loss was likely to diminish the standing of the JD(S) leadership in the dominant Vokkaliga community, which is the party’s driving force, on account of the BJP ensuring the victory of film actor S Jaggesh who belongs to the community.
“JD(S) has fielded Kupendra Reddy as its first candidate in the Rajya Sabha election. He is an entrepreneur, a social worker, and a progressive thinker. He is an experienced Rajya Sabha member and all parties must extend support to him with an open mind. To strengthen the secular forces Congress must fully support him,” Kumaraswamy had said.
However, the Congress refused to support Reddy.
“Is Kumaraswamy not responsible (for the BJP victory)? We were the first to field a candidate for the polls. We had 25 votes. Who fielded their candidate on the second day? Could they not have avoided fielding a candidate? When Deve Gowda was fielded (in 2020) did we also field a candidate? Who helped the BJP win? They helped the BJP win,” Siddaramaiah said in response to Kumaraswamy’s allegation of the Congress helping the BJP, according to the report.
“We suffered by joining hands with them (JDS) for the parliament polls,” Siddaramaiah added.
‘Door is closed’
After the RS poll results, Kumaraswamy hit out at the Congress for doing “low-level politics”.
“Congress is doing low-level politics by hijacking our MLAs. In 2016, Siddaramaiah was the chief minister when he got eight of our MLAs to cross-vote. And, he talks about saving democracy. Do Congress leaders have any respect for the Constitution? How is the Congress any different from the BJP?” he asked.
“What did you achieve with Gowda’s vote? With what face and morality will you fight the BJP?” he added.
With the Karnataka Assembly polls slated for 2023, the former alliance partners – the Congress and JD(S) seem to have ended their relationship, for now. “That door is closed,” said Kumaraswamy after the Rajya Sabha poll results.
The JD(S), which has always been a kingmaker in Karnataka politics, will now have to make sure that it keeps its flock together for the next year’s Assembly elections or it may become advantage for state Congress chief D K Shivakumar, a prominent Vokkaliga leader.