Tie-up with JD(S) in Karnataka becomes thorn in flesh for Congress

BENGALURU: The Congress-JD(S) alliance for the Lok Sabha polls is giving sleepless nights to grassroots level workers in Old Mysuru region and also leaders themselves in districts of North Karnataka.

As if the JD(S)’ caste and vote consolidation in parts of South Karnataka, especially Old Mysuru region, wasn’t enough, the growing perception of the coalition government being biased against North Karnataka is threatening the Congress in the region. In both parts, workers and leaders believe Congress will be the ultimate loser if the party doesn’t act immediately.

“The going is getting already tough for Congress in Mysuru, Mandya, Bengaluru Rural, Hassan, Chamarajnagar, Tumakuru and Ramanagara districts. JD(S) is already strong in these regions and the voter base that we have carefully built is drifting, thanks to the Vokkaliga consolidation. By offering them seats, we are gifting them our voters, resources and most importantly cadres- those who can’t see eye-to-eye with JD(S) workers,” said a Congress district unit officer bearer from Old Mysuru region.

A Congress worker said the biggest fear is having a tie-up with JD(S) for the Urban Local Body elections, which, she believes, will be a death blow to the party’s structure.

The Congress is not on the safe ground in North Karnataka either, at least not with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy making statements that have instigated a bandh on August 2 demanding separate statehood. In North Karnataka, the Congress’ problem is of perception.

The lack of equal representation for MLAs from the region in the ministry, the Vokkaliga and South Karnataka-heavy cabinet, Kumaraswamy’s add-on budget and more importantly, his statements, deliberate or otherwise, have not gone down well for the government in 16 districts.

“It (the perception) will negatively impact Congress if they are identified only as ‘Kumaraswamy government’. Very few important North Karnataka leaders are part of this government. Satish Jarkiholi, M B Patil, H K Patil, SR Patil etc., aren’t in the cabinet,” observed political analyst Prof Narendar Pani.

He added how the north-south divide is economic in nature. But it is not just the economics of it. The Congress, which burnt its hand over the Lingayat separate religious status row, could very well find itself more distanced from the politically powerful community.

“For the first time, you see a clear Vokkaliga dominance in Karnataka politics and this is threatening Lingayats. That the Congress has aligned with a so-called Vokkaliga party like JD(S) have made Lingayats insecure further,” said A Narayana, political analyst. While it is the workers in South Karnataka, it is the leaders that are a worried lot in North Karnataka.

“When there is a triangular fight, anti-Congress votes get divided between BJP and JD(S). But now, BJP will get the consolidated backing of all anti-Congress votes. The CM’s statements and the Congress refusing to distance itself from it will definitely hurt its prospects,” said a senior Congress legislator from North Karnataka.

Leaders from the region are pressing the party to act immediately before the tide turns against them, especially with BJP seeing an opportunity to exploit in its favour. The Congress now needs a plan to keep its voter and cadre base intact while fighting off a negative perception and keeping its leaders from North Karnataka in good humour.

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