Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) patriarch HD Deva Gowda on Tuesday accepted the Congress offer of unconditional support to his party to form the government in Karnataka after the Assembly election results threw up a hung verdict. But JD(S) officials say that Deva Gowda was not completely happy with the Congress opening dual channels and simultaneously reaching out to his son HD Kumaraswamy.
Senior party officials confirmed that Deva Gowda’s irritation with the Congress’s manner of functioning was prompted by rumblings in his family. They said that Kumaraswamy’s brother HD Revannna, spoke to his father on Tuesday and alleged that Kumaraswamy was trying to corner power. This would leave nothing for other members of the family, who had also put in a lot of effort during the Assembly election campaign, party officials said.
A former minister told Scroll.in that the disagreement in the Gowda family first cropped up in April as the party handed out tickets to its chosen candidates. “Revanna was keen on getting his son Prajwal a ticket. Kumaraswamy derailed that move,” the former minister said. The argument made was that each of the families in the clan should get only one ticket, he said.
However, Kumaraswamy contested from two constituencies. The understanding in the JD(S) was that if he won both, he would resign from one seat and give it to his wife. “Revanna feels if Kumaraswamy becomes chief minister, there is no stopping this move,” the leader added.
Reaching a compromise
With regard to Revanna’s son Prajwal, the family reached a compromise after Deva Gowda assured Revanna that his son would be given the Hasan parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. This is the seat Deva Gowda currently represents.
Some in the JD (S) were also unhappy with the way Congress made its move on Tuesday without any regard for the internal equations of the JD(S). However, no one in the party anticipates any open revolt as the prospect of power is too attractive to give up. “It is Deva Gowda’s view that all this can be sorted out later,” an official said.
In the Congress, though, senior Karnataka leaders are angry that JD(S) was offered unconditional support. A minister told Scroll.in that this move was made entirely by old guard in the high command. “We do not even know if Rahul Gandhi was fully into this hasty move,” the leader said.
According to the leader, given the way the results emerged, the JD(S) had no option but to form an alliance with the Congress. “If they had gone with the BJP, there was no way they would have been treated as equal partners,” the leader said. “We should have at least made attempts to bargain for the chief minister’s post.”
While senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar was pushing for the deputy chief minister post, it became clear by Wednesday morning that it would be extremely difficult to convince both Deva Gowda and senior leaders in the Congress to accept Vokkaligas occupying the chairs of both the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. “There could be a revolt in the Congress if this happens,” the leader added.
The official said that the fact that the Congress gave up the advantage and let the JD(S) run the show could be a big factor in party MLAs trying to hop parties. “The high command has to answer the simple question of why Congress MLAs should work for a JD(S) chief minister,” the official said.
The consensus in the Congress is that the high command moved to swiftly to avoid a repeat of Goa and Manipur, where the BJP quickly clinched post-poll alliances and snatched power from the Congress.
At the moment, the front runner for the deputy chief minister post is G Parameshwara, a Dalit and the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. “If he is chosen, DK Shivakumar is likely to be made the state party president,” the leader said.
The Congress is also thinking about proposing the idea of two deputy chief ministers so that a Lingayat leader can be included. This is primarily being done to keep the Lingayat flock in the party intact, given the rumours that the Bharatiya Janata Party was trying to reach out to them.
Leaders in the BJP said BS Yeddyurappa, the party chief ministerial candidate, was of the view that a Congress-JD(S) alliance would not last long. “He is in no mood to allow any big concession to get the JD(S),” said a member of parliament close to Yeddyurappa. “He is very confident of getting the numbers if the Governor invites him to form the government.”