The Lok Sabha seat sharing agreement in Karnataka between the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress is not going to be a smooth affair, if the statements made by the top leadership of two parties is anything to go by.
And this is the situation even before formal rounds of talks between the two parties is yet to commence.
Karnataka chief minister H.D.Kumaraswamy on Tuesday chided his alliance partners, saying that the JD(S) were not beggars to take whatever the Congress gave them as part of its pre-poll agreement.
“I don’t know if it will be seven, five or three seats. But we JD(S) are not beggars," he said in Mysuru, about 125 kms from Bengaluru.
His predecessor and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah countered by saying that it was a coalition government and no one here is a beggar. He added that a final decision on seat sharing is yet to be taken.
The statements of both leaders not just adding to the simmering tensions between the two parties but also questioning its earlier claims of having buried their tempestuous past. The two parties, who have broken off an alliance as recent as 2006, came together in May last year to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a chance at power in Karnataka.
But differences between the two parties and dissent within the Congress has time and again brought back the question of the stability of the already fragile alliance, who have spent much of the last eight months quelling rumours and thwarting alleged attempts by the opposition to bring down the government.
Former prime minister and JD(S) supremo, H.D.Deve Gowda fired the first salvo early this year when he demanded around 12 out of the 28 seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections, which the two parties have decided to fight together.
The Congress, which is trying to revive its national fortunes, intends to bag as many seats as possible in Karnataka and ceding too many to the JD(S) may hamper their chances. The JD(S) on the other hand are hoping to capitalise on the alliance to increase its tally from two currently and further consolidate the dominant Vokkaliga community vote behind the party and away from the Congress, especially in southern parts of the state where the two parties have significant presence.
The Congress, that has sacrificed much of its aspirations to retain power in Karnataka, would have significant risks if it did bring down the alliance in the state as it would impact its plans to lead a consolidated opposition to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the centre.
With Deve Gowda likely to give up his Hassan parliamentary seat to his grandson, Prajwal Revanna, the question of a replacement constituency has also added to the confusion. Speculation that he would contest from Bengaluru North, Tumakuru and Mysuru-Kodagu among other places have been making the rounds, even though there is no official word yet.
The Congress is hoping to retain all its 10 parliamentary seats it currently holds. But the JD(S) has set its eyes on seats that fall in south Karnataka including Chikkaballapura and Kolar among other seats.
Possibility of a ‘friendly fight’ has also increased as the grassroot level workers of both the parties can barely meet eye to eye in several districts of the state.