Unprecedented Defections from BJP & Congress Raise Gowdas’ Hopes in Karnataka as JDS Eyes Hung House

Unlike his father JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy is a cricket fan. He is good at facing slog overs and with the all-important Karnataka assembly elections and IPL matches happening at the same time, “slog” seems to be the buzzword in the state.

Waiting for the two main players BJP and Congress to decide all their candidates and fielding some of the powerful ones who have missed the bus on JDS ticket has been an old trick of the Gowdas. It is a tried, tested, sometimes failed and sometimes succeeded idea.

This time, the JDS has gone several steps ahead by fielding over 20 BJP and Congress defectors across the state, triggering panic in both camps. HDK’s job was clearly much easier this time because there were no Yorkers.

Of the 20-plus defectors, including some sitting MLAs, most are well-known faces with their own following and clout. HDK hopes that the JDS can win at least 10 extra seats if his gamble pays off. Since these are not his original candidates, even if they lose, it won’t affect JDS much but can at least increase the vote share of the party.

The JDS has fielded ex-BJP MLA MP Kumaraswamy from Mudigere in Chickmagalur district. BJP had denied re-nomination to MP Kumaraswamy to try a new face close to party national general secretary CT Ravi, who is seeking his fifth straight term from neighbouring Chikmagalur. The JDS has fielded disgruntled BJP youngster and BSY’s estranged personal assistant NR Santosh from Arsikere after their sitting MLA KM Shivalinge Gowda defected to Congress. In Kadur, former JDS MLA YSV Datta is back on a JDS ticket after Congress denied him a chance.

BJP MLC and senior Lingayat leader Ayanur Manjunath has quit the party to contest on a JDS ticket from Shimoga city. With him, former Congress MLA KB Prasanna Kumar has also joined JDS, vowing to defeat his former party. In Kumta-Honnavar, JDS has netted Congress rebels Sooraj Nayak and Moideen Bawa in Mangalore North.

In politically volatile Bellary City, veteran Congress leader Anil Lad has crossed over to the JDS after his party chose Bharath Reddy over him.

For all its national party pretensions, JDS is a sub-regional party with a strong presence in just six districts of old Mysore area in south Karnataka. Its Vokkaliga caste party tag has prevented the JDS from expanding the base outside the Gowda heartland. HDK has sensed a great opportunity and scope to go beyond traditional boundaries in this election and has fielded over a dozen BJP and Congress rebels in Karnataka’s remaining areas.

The JDS has fielded veteran Congress leader Dr AB Malakareddi from Yadagiri, other prominent BJP and Congress defectors Suryakantha Nagamarapalli in Bidar, Guru Patil in Shahapur, Pradeep Malagi in Raibag and Anand Chopra in Saundatti Yellamma, Dr Devaraja Patil in Bagalkote, Doddappa Gowda in Jewargi. , Somana Gouda in Basavana Bagewadi, Chandrashekhar in Koppal, Kalappa Gaddi in Navalgund, SL Ghotnekar in Haliyal, Chitra Kottur in Karwar, Manohar Tahasildar in Hanagal, Nemiraj Naik in Hagaribommanahalli, and Bhimappa in Kudligi in north Karnataka.

It has also fielded former Congress minister and BJP turncoat A Manju in Arakalgud in place of sitting MLA AT Ramaswamy who has crossed over to BJP; Rajagopala Reddy in Bengaluru South, and Dr Bharathi Shankar in Varuna in its stronghold of old Mysore region.

Since 2004, the JDS has won 40 seats on an average. The highest was 58 seats in 2004 and the lowest was 28 in 2008. In 2013 and 2018, it won 40 and 38 seats, respectively. It has a vote share of 15-18 per cent in the state.

If the Gowda clan’s ambitious plan of breaching the northern fortress of Congress and BJP through these defectors clicks, two national parties will be the biggest losers. They may then have to beg JDS for support to form the next government.

Speaking to News18, HD Kumaraswamy said: “We will win seats across Karnataka and form the next government.”

However, everyone — including HDK — knows that winning Karnataka on their own is still a distant dream and at best, the situation can throw up a hung House.

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