Former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), chief H.D. Deve Gowda is interacting more with party workers ever since the Lok Sabha election results and more so since the collapse of the coalition government in Karnataka led by son, H.D. Kumaraswamy.
The collapse of the 14-month-old government, accompanied by ruptures in the Congress and JD(S), has also brought the state’s politics back to a three-way contest. It has also presented the traditional rivals an opportunity to bring back disenchanted cadre who had drifted away since May last year.
“Kumaraswamy is not that upset that the chief minister’s post is gone, but happy that he can peacefully build the party now," Gowda said in an interview. Building the party is his biggest challenge and priority, the JD(S) chief said.
“No matter how much we tried, there was no coalition at the ground level," he said.
The decision to form an alliance, ignoring differences and opposition from party workers, had exposed the fault lines between the two parties, defeating the common objective of defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since the collapse of the coalition, B.S. Yediyurappa has been sworn in as the new chief minister, though the cloud of uncertainty still looms over a state that feels ignored by its political class and was left to face droughts, floods and acute drinking water shortage on its own. It is nearly 10 days since Yediyurappa took office, but the BJP is yet to announce its cabinet. However, he has approved several top-level transfers and even cancelled approvals to files and projects passed by his predecessor, including the budgetary approval given to Bengaluru’s civic body.
“Yediyurappa knows that the coalition is already split and there is no problem for him," Gowda said, adding that the fight between the Congress and JD(S) had helped the BJP. Even Gowda was defeated in the parliamentary polls, in which the BJP won 25 out of the 28 seats in the state, leaving just one each for the coalition partners and one for an independent candidate.
The JD(S) is now charting a course, under Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy’s leadership, to help revive the party, that includes a state tour. There have been reports that the JD(S) could extend support to the BJP to help defeat the Congress, the main Opposition for the JD(S) in its bastion of south Karnataka and reclaim its Vokkaliga support base.
The JD(S), which had helped stop the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP juggernaut last year, is now staring at an uphill task to retrieve lost ground in the upcoming bypolls in at least 17 constituencies. Three of its legislators—K.Gopalaiah, Naryana Gowda and A.H. Vishwanath—are among the 17 who now stand disqualified.
The Congress and JD(S) are making separate arrangements to fight the bypolls and Gowda said he will take on both parties. “I am sitting very tough here to see that my party should fight tough against both Congress and BJP. I know how to fight against these two parties and have enough material to do so," he said.