Former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), supremo H.D. Deve Gowda on Wednesday said he had “clinched" 10 out of the 28 parliamentary seats in Karnataka as part of its seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress.
Although the Congress was hoping to contest more Lok Sabha seats in the state, the JD(S) is hoping to ride on the back of its alliance partner to increase its own tally. The most it has won is three parliamentary seats since 2004.
“Earlier I had demanded 12 seats. Today, ultimately I have clinched 10 seats," Gowda said in New Delhi after meeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Gowda said discussions will continue to determine the constituencies.
The Congress, meanwhile, is hopeful that its sacrifices in Karnataka will help convince other regional parties to join hands with it and consolidate the votes to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the parliamentary polls due in April-May.
Similarly, the Congress will contest nine seats in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and one seat in Puducherry as part of its alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and seven other regional parties, to take on the combined might of the BJP-AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).
The benefit for the JD(S), if any, will be determined in subsequent talks when the two parties get into the specifics.
“It depends on which seats they get," said political scientist Narendra Pani of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).
The JD(S), which has a strong presence in south Karnataka, had been demanding more seats in the region but faced stiff resistance from the Congress, which fears ceding more ground to its alliance partner will lead to further consolidation of the Vokkaliga votes behind the JD(S).
Having lost favour with the dominant Lingayat community, the Congress has not been able to bank solely on the highly fragmented backward classes support base. If it cedes ground in the Vokkaliga-dominated south Karnataka, its prospects in state politics could suffer further.
Caste equations aside, the Congress and the JD(S) have fought fierce battles in the southern parts of the state, where their workers still don’t see eye-to-eye.
The JD(S)’s demand for seats include those which are currently held by the Congress, which has been shielding these seats by keeping them off the table.
The JD(S) is keen to contest in Tumakuru, Chikkaballapura, Mysore-Kodagu and at least one of the three constituencies in Bengaluru, apart from its strongholds of Hassan and Mandya. Senior Congress leaders said that they might have conceded some seats to keep the coalition from breaking apart, but it could impact the national party’s plans for the upcoming polls.
The BJP has been keeping a watchful eye on emerging disagreements between the coalition partners as well as disgruntled members, who it thinks could help bring down the shaky coalition government in the state.
The discussions could add to the problems of the coalition, with both the Congress and JD(s) playing hardball.
Analysts said the Congress could also be willing to give up seats where it is unlikely to win against the BJP.