Home >politics >policy >Seat-sharing row may hit Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) pact

Bengaluru: The results of bypolls to three parliamentary and two assembly seats in Karnataka, to be declared on Tuesday, are likely to once again highlight issues such as cabinet expansion and set the tone for seat sharing talks between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).

The Congress has the most to lose in the elections. The party has already conceded crucial seats dominated by the Vokkaliga community—Ramanagaram, Shivamogga and Mandya—to its alliance partner, upsetting its grassroot-level workers in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The results come at a time when relations between the JD(S) and Congress have been strained over coordination within the government or between the two parties, which have traditionally been rivals especially in South Karnataka. Grassroots party workers of both the JD(S) and Congress are being forced to work together and this has given the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) some advantage as it continues to welcome dissidents.

Dissent in the Congress is adding to the trouble. The dissent is being led by leaders who were left out in the first list of the cabinet and have little chance of making it in subsequent rounds.

“If the coalition draws a blank outside Ramanagaram and Mandya, the 2019 seat sharing discussions may not be very smooth," said A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

The reputation of leaders such as former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Congress strongman D.K. Shivakumar is also at stake. These leaders have invested considerably in securing victories to help enhance the influence they wield within their own parties.

The coalition partners agreed that the JD(S) would contest Mandya, Ramanagaram and Shivamogga while the Congress would contest in Ballari and Jamkhandi, both relatively difficult seats.

The Congress and JD(S) said they would contest the by-polls together and this would test the coalition’s endurance in the run up to the 2019 elections.

The two parties have decided to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections as an alliance despite the risk of further aggravating grassroots workers who are not very happy with the state-level alliance.

Siddaramaiah has taken charge at Jamkhandi, which the Congress won by less than 3,000 votes in May, while Shivakumar is the district in charge minister for Ballari, home of the powerful mining tycoons ‘Reddy’ brothers and their aide, B.Sriramulu, whose sister is the BJP candidate.

The Congress helped JD(S)’s Anitha Kumaraswamy, wife of chief minister H.D Kumaraswamy, as Shivakumar engineered the withdrawal of the BJP candidate in Ramanagaram, giving the regional outfit an uncontested victory.

The BJP, analysts say, could benefit the most as the electorate in Karnataka have a tendency to vote for a party that is not in power in the state.

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