Shifting loyalties, absence of secular vote bank: How JD(S) lost its ground in Karnataka

The collective failure of all the 'secular' parties in reaching out to the youths with a strong ideology upholding the secular values ​created a climate conducive for the BJP to win 25 out of 28 parliament seats.

 

Ahead of Lok Sabha election results​​, noted writer Devanuru Mahadeva, in a private conversation anticipated that in future the BJP might get considerable support in the Vokkaliga dominant districts, which were hitherto the strong bastion of the Janata Dal (Secular). Mahadeva, a politician ​identified with the Swaraj India Party, had closely observed ​how youth in the old Mysuru region​ vote​. The Lok Sabha results vindicated him, though he was not expecting his fears would to reality so ​early.

The collective failure of all the ‘secular’ parties in reaching out to the youths with a strong ideology upholding the secular values ​created a climate conducive for the BJP to win 25 out of 28 parliament seats

Under the leadership of B.S.Yeddyurappa, a prominent Lingayat leader, the BJP has succeeded to expand its base in Lingayat dominant north Karnataka districts. The party had difficulty in reaching out to the old Mysuru area. However, the last Lok Sabha election has shown the party is growing strong in all regions, by recording a vote share of 51.4 percent in the state. Now, the JD(S) is losing its base allowing the BJP to take over. The JD(S)-Congress alliance in the elections benefitted the third party.

The time has come for the JD(S) to introspect why it failed to retain its votes base. One among the prime reason​s​ is that, despite having ‘secular’ in its name, the party and its leaders hardly represented it on the ground. Party’s patriarch H.D.Deve Gowda, former PM, has the record of taking the minorities along with the party. But that reputation suffered a serious beating when the party under the leadership of his son H.D.Kumaraswamy joined hands with the BJP to form the government in 2006. With regard to the backward classes, particularly the Dalits, the party puts up a sorry face.

Prominent leaders of the party look no better than Golwalkars or Hed​g​ewars in treating Dalits. In fact, former associates of H.D.Revanna, Minister for Public Works in the H.D.Kumaraswamy cabinet, have often accused him of rushing to take bath for the second time in the day if the person he encounters a Dalit when he steps out after his regular pooja (prayers) in the morning. The stand he took on many occasions with regard to incidents of atrocities on Dalits has made people such accusations.

Even as the JD(S)-Congress alliance was in crisis, the PWD Minister was busy offering promotions to his staff in an objectionable manner. The officers from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were allegedly sidelined while offering promotions. Earlier, he was accused of denying posts for SC-ST officers in his department after their deputation to other departments ended. With such a track record, how can he claim to be a leader of a ‘secular’ party?

The failure of all secular parties to build a strong secular vote base is the ​main reason for the present mess in the state. It is true the BJP has lured 15 legislators promising them cabinet berths, huge cash among other offers. Beyond all that, the prime reason that prompted the legislators to switch their sides is that they are confident of returning to the legislature on the BJP ticket, in face of a by-election in their constituency. The assembly-constituency wise poll turnout in the Lok Sabha elections clearly show that the BJP has increased its strength, by and large, in all assembly constituencies represented by these rebel MLAs. They have strong reasons to be confident of a victory.

In all these developments the sure losers are people of the state. Take the case of Hunasur voters in Mysuru district. A majority of the voters supported A.H.Vishwanath and got him elected in the 2018 assembly elections. Among those voted him included minorities, backward classes, and fans of the H.D.Deve Gowda family. Now, he resigned to support the BJP come to power. This is a betrayal of people´s mandate. Those who elected him are the losers now.​

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