The seat sharing talks that formally began on Monday between the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress in Karnataka, is likely to take longer than expected as the meetings does not yet involve its national leadership who will finalise the constituency and candidate list.
The Congress party led by its state president Dinesh Gundu Rao and deputy chief minister G.Parameshwara met JD(S) state chief H.Vishwanath and its senior leaders like H.D.Revanna and Kupendra Reddy.
Though both parties claims to have set aside their differences, senior leaders expressing their displeasure in public forums has added to speculation that the alliance partners may still be non-committal on their earlier announcement to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha polls together. The JD(S) decision to continue its alliance with the BJP in the Mysuru Zilla Panchayat adding to the problems of the alliance partners, who have shared a turbulent past.
“We will now do an internal survey on candidates and constituencies before meeting again," said one senior JD(S) leader, directly aware of the talks on Monday.
With parliamentary election dates expected to be announced soon, analysts say that delays in finalising seats is likely to adversely impact its individual strategising and campaigning efforts that could in turn affect the Congress’ grand plans to lead a consolidated opposition against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The JD(S) remains firm on its demand for around 10-12 seats out of the 28 to help the party increase its individual tally from two currently as well as tighten its grip over the region and further consolidate the dominant Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka, which the Congress cannot afford to lose. Having lost favour with the Lingayats and unable to depend on the highly fragmented backward classes votes, the Congress is battling hard to keep as many seats in the southern part as possible.
“Winnability of the candidates will be the only yardstick to decide seat-sharing agreement & we are hopeful that the outcomes of the meetings shall satisfy both the parties," Siddaramaiah, former CM and chairman of the coordination and monitoring committee, wrote on Twitter.
The winnability element being used as a tool to help the Congress retain the 10 seats it currently holds as well as regain lost ground in the southern part of the state.
A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University says that the Congress and JD(S) are organisationally very different with the former more likely to be the cause of the delays.
“Both parties may already know which seats they really want but will take their time in announcing it and leave the opposition guessing," Narayana added.
The JD(S) has set its sights on Tumakuru, Chikkaballapura, Kolar, Mysuru-Kodagu and at least one seat in Bengaluru, leaders from both parties say. A.Sumalatha, wife of late Congress leader and popular actor, H.Ambareesh, who died late last year has now expressed her interest to fight election from the JD(S) stronghold of Mandya on a Congress ticket that is adding to the strain on the talks.
“We have to finalise everything before Shivarathri (4 March)," the JD(S) leader cited above said.
Analysts and party leaders also said that the delays would give the JD(S) and Congress very little time to convince its local workers, who can barely see eye-to-eye in most districts of south Karnataka, to work together. The BJP stands to gain from any discord between the workers of the two parties as the saffron outfit would be able to increase its otherwise small footprint in the region, where it has little of no representation at all.