H.D. Deve Gowda (File photo: Mint)
H.D. Deve Gowda (File photo: Mint)

Deve Gowda extends olive branch to Congress before Karnataka bypolls

  • 'We must forget our internal differences considering the prevailing conditions in the country,' said Gowda
  • Gowda's statement precedes 17 bypolls in the state in which the BJP must win at least eight seats to retain its majority

Bengaluru: Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) supremo, H.D. Deve Gowda on Thursday said that he was willing to consider continuing the coalition with the Congress, extending an olive branch to its estranged alliance partner.

“We must forget our internal differences considering the prevailing conditions in the country," Deve Gowda said in Bengaluru on Thursday.

The 86-year-old was using the same argument that overshadowed its traditional rivalry with the Congress and had become the basis of the post-poll alliance after the hung verdict in 2018. Gowda’s statement comes almost two months after the Congress-JD(S) coalition collapsed after over a year of internal bickering between the traditional rivals. Since then Deve Gowda has traded charges with Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah. Both sides are blaming each other for the collapse of the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka.

Deva Gowda's statement precedes 17 bypolls in the state in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must win at least eight seats to retain its majority when the vacancies in the lower house of the legislature are filled up.

Problems for the Congress-JD(S) alliance worsened after the Lok Sabha elections, in which the two parties were reduced to just one seat each with even Deve Gowda losing from Tumakuru. Talk of another alliance is unlikely to go down well with the cadre that found some reason to cheer with the collapse of the previous one. The disenchanted workers of both parties were unable to accept the state-level alliance and had drifted towards the BJP in the run-up to the parliamentary election.

However, Deve Gowda said that he will take this decision only after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi consults the local leadership.

The disqualified rebels include the former president of the JD(S), A.H.Vishwanath and two others and 14 from the Congress. With the BJP looking to make inroads into south Karnataka, considered the bastion of the JD(S), the regional outfit hoping to isolate Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party in the Vokkaliga belt of the state.

Both the Congress and JD(S) are trying to cash in on the anger of the community that is revolting against Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for selectively targeting prominent Vokkaliga leaders.

The arrest of senior Congress leader and former Karnataka minister, D.K.Shivakumar saw thousands join a protest march in Bengaluru. Deve Gowda and his son, H.D.Kumaraswamy are trying to retain the support of the community that has consolidated behind the JD(S) since 2013. The Vokkaligas had decided to move away from the Congress after Siddaramaiah allegedly sidelined the community by giving priority to backward classes and his own Kuruba caste group, his main support base.

In an interview with Mint, Deve Gowda had stated that the party will not fight all 17 bypolls. The disqualified former legislators have approached the Supreme Court to overturn former Karnataka assembly speaker, K.R.Ramesh Kumar’s order that debarred all 17 of them from contesting bypolls. The dates for the bypolls are yet to be announced.

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