Why JD(S) and Congress Are Parting Ways for Karnataka Civic Polls

The leaders of both parties have come to a decision to fight the urban local body elections separately.

3 min read
Yeddyurappa and HD Kumaraswamy

For a brief period, during the elections to the urban local bodies (ULB), the Congress and the JD(S) are forgetting all about their alliance. The leaders of both parties have come to a decision to fight the urban local body elections separately.

Why are they fighting each other at the grassroot level, while running a coalition government? According to many, the prime reason is to keep the BJP at bay in South Karnataka.

On 29 August, elections will be held in 108 urban local bodies – according to the state election commission – including 29 municipal corporations, 53 town municipalities and 23 town panchayats. In 2013 ULB elections, the Congress had swept the state by winning 1,906 seats in 207 local bodies. The BJP and the JD(S) had managed only 906 seats each.

Forgetting Alliance to Keep BJP at Bay

The BJP in Karnataka doesn’t have a strong base in South Karnataka, especially in Old Mysuru Region. Leaders of both parties of the coalition government agree that a decision to contest the elections together would affect the morale of the grassroot party workers.

“Grassroot, ward-level workers are the backbone of any party. If JD(S) and Congress contest together, seats will have to be split and many good local leaders from both parties would be denied tickets,” said a JD(S) leader.

A disgruntlement among these leaders when denied tickets will present the BJP with an opportunity to create a strong base in South Karnataka.

It will be as good as presenting good party workers to the BJP, on a plate. Contesting the elections together is good for keeping the parties’ roots strong and denying the BJP a base in Old Mysuru.
a Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) office bearer

ULB Elections – Testing Ground for BJP

BS Yeddyurappa 
BS Yeddyurappa 
(Photo: PTI)

On 19 May, before resigning as the chief minister, BJP leader Yeddyurappa gave an emotional speech on the floor of the house. He claimed, despite people’s mandate, the BJP was denied power because of an ‘unholy’ post-poll alliance between the JD(S) and the Congress.

The speech was an attempt to win sympathy votes, something that had worked in his favour in 2008. After he was denied the position of the chief minister by his coalition partner JD(S), Yeddyurappa made a similar emotional speech and was elected in a subsequent election, with the majority playing the victim card.

The BJP has been using the ‘unholy alliance’ as their campaign peg against the JD(S) and the Congress. For the BJP, the ULB election will be a testing ground for the strategy, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Tested Indicator for the Coalition

Who benefitted from the post-poll alliance in the state? The Congress or the JD(S)? The ULB election is expected to answer this crucial question.

For the Congress leadership the rationale behind the alliance in Karnataka is clear – setting example for a grand alliance against the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections.

But many within the Congress party fear that the Congress’ leniency, in giving JD(S) better portfolios and a free hand in drafting the budget, has resulted in the JD(S) gaining more popularity. “If you ask anyone who gave the farm loan waiver, people would say Kumaraswamy and not the Congress,” explained a Congress leader.

So even for the coalition partners the ULB election will be an indicator of who benefitted the most from the coalition.

But for now, the decision to fight ULB elections separately has parked for now the first litmus test of the JD(S)-Congress coalition in the state. The strength of the coalition will now be tested during the seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha election.

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