Karnataka’s ruling alliance partners Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), and Congress on Thursday held their first formal meeting to discuss sharing of seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election.
Though the two parties in the eight-month-old coalition government have tried hard to set aside their stormy past relations to retain power, both will bargain hard to get a higher share of seats.
“We discussed seat-sharing. We will meet again in the next three to four days and decide who gets which constituency," said Congress party leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is also the chairman of the coordination and monitoring committee. Former prime minister and JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda will also be part of the formal discussions, Siddaramaiah added.
Gowda has previously said the JD(S) is likely to claim 12 of the 28 parliamentary seats in the state to keep enough room for bargaining. Political analysts said this also shows some level of distrust between the allies.
“There is no demand. The common motive is to get the maximum number of seats for the coalition," Kunwar Danish Ali, secretary general of the JD(S) said, adding the alliance would bag over 25 seats.
Though the Congress has promised to support the JD(S) in Karnataka for a full five-year term, leaders from both parties say the alliance’s future will be determined by the results of the parliamentary elections and their impact on the centre.
Despite being the bigger party, the Congress ceded significantly to its smaller partner to help revive the national party’s chances in the forthcoming general elections. The swearing-in ceremony of chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in May last year became one of the biggest platforms for opposition politics, which the Congress hopes to lead against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The movement has since taken a beating as several regional parties have decided against allying with the Congress party.
The alliance has often accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to bring down the government by luring its legislators; however, there have been many differences among the allies themselves. Besides, many grassroots workers of the Congress are not happy about the state-level partnership.
The Karnataka government is hoping that the ₹45,000-crore loan waiver for drought-hit farmers and several other populist schemes will help the alliance, that has lost just one seat in elections since May last year.
But the coalition government, that has been proactively signing off on big-ticket and contentious projects like Peripheral Ring Road, elevated corridor and proposals to bring back a controversial steel bridge, has not implemented reservations in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, earning the ire of the communities who make up for the biggest support-base of the Congress.
Dalit activists on Thursday tried to confront Kumaraswamy and threatened to carry out state-wide protests against the coalition that is yet to implement the scheme, which has received the president’s assent. People directly aware of the developments say that the Vokkaliga community-backed JD(S) is unwilling to implement the scheme as it could affect promotions of members of its own support base in the bureaucracy. Siddaramaiah said the government will have to discuss the issue with the advocate general before taking a decision.