Kumaraswamy to contest from Mandya, nephew Prajwal from Hassan — JD(S) declares candidates in 3 seats

3 months ago
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Prajwal Revanna, Kumaraswamy’s nephew and former PM H.D. Deve Gowda’s grandson, will contest from Hassan, and M. Mallesh Babu is the JD(S) candidate from Kolar, according to an official statement from the party late Friday.

The JD(S) will now contest on its own from Mandya, Kolar and Hassan.

Bengaluru: The Janata Dal (Secular) has announced that H.D. Kumaraswamy, two-time former chief minister of Karnataka, will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Mandya, ending months of suspense over his candidature and managing to get its way against its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Kumaraswamy will contest from Mandya, from where his actor-son, Nikhil, was defeated in 2019 by BJP-backed independent Sumalatha Ambareesh.

The 64-year-old has since tried to get one back against the actress-turned-politician for scuttling his son’s electoral debut.

On Thursday, Kumaraswamy hinted at burying the hatchet with Sumalatha, stating that the latter was not his “permanent enemy”. Though he has not officially reached out to her, Kumaraswamy will need all the support he can get against Congress’s Venkataramanegowda, or Star Chandru, in Mandya.

The Congress, in power in Karnataka, announced its candidates weeks ago and the party has already kickstarted its poll campaign, while the BJP and JD(S) held off on announcing their decision until late Friday.

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Ever since the BJP and JD(S) stitched an alliance, the latter has demanded three-four seats to contest on while the former was trying to settle at two, people aware of the developments told ThePrint.

Dr C.N. Manjunath, Deve Gowda’s son-in-law and former director of the state-run Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, is the BJP’s candidate from Bengaluru Rural and will take on the Congress heavyweight D.K. Suresh.

The JD(S) has not had more than three seats in Parliament before, but was unwilling to concede its bastions to the bigger ally. Analysts say that the alliance has helped the JD(S) keep its flock together after internal problems were beginning to drive many of its legislators and leaders into the arms of the Congress and the BJP.

The BJP, on the other hand, is trying to make inroads into the southern districts or “Old Mysuru” region, where it has little or no presence, with the help of the JD(S). The Mandya seat falls in the region.

JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda has also largely commanded support of the dominant Vokkaliga community in Old Mysuru.

But if the May 2023 assembly elections are anything to go by, then the three JD(S) candidates will not have it easy.

After having won all eight seats in the Mandya district in 2018, the JD(S) was reduced to just one seat in 2023, with the Congress sweeping six and one going to an independent in the sugarcane growing region.

Similarly, in Hassan Lok Sabha constituency, JD(S)’ tally came down to four assembly seats in 2023 from seven in 2018. In the eight seats under Kolar parliamentary constituency, the JD(S) won three and the Congress bagged the remaining.

“We don’t want to give up the seats where we have a strong ground presence. This would lead to a disconnect between the party and its workers,” a JD(S) leader told ThePrint.

The Congress is banking on last year’s results to tide over the BJP-JD(S) alliance this time around.

In 2019, Sumalatha Ambareesh, wife of yesteryear Kannada actor and former minister Ambareesh, scripted history by becoming the first-ever independent MP from Karnataka.

In the high-decibel election, she defeated Nikhil Kumaraswamy, the son of the then sitting CM, in Mandya by over 1 lakh votes. This dealt a heavy blow to Kumaraswamy and widened the rift between the JD(S) and Congress, who had continued their post-poll alliance from 2018 into the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Ever since, several JD(S) legislators and ministers have targeted Sumalatha.

On Thursday, though, Kumaraswamy tried to make amends.

“The late Ambareesh and I were friends, which is known to all. Sumalatha had served me and Ambareesh food. We are not enemies. I am confident that she will bless me,” Kumaraswamy said at the “coordination meeting” of the BJP and JD(S) in Mandya.

Sumalatha has said she will announce her next step after discussing it with her supporters.

“(BJP state president) B.Y. Vijayendra expressed his opinion and expectations. I, too, told him about my concerns for the district and election. He asked me to join the party as he wanted me to remain with the BJP. Tomorrow my supporters are coming. I told him that I will not take any decision unilaterally without consulting my supporters. It is my duty to listen to their expectations and opinions. I told him that I will make my stand clear in Mandya itself,” Sumalatha told the media after a meeting with Vijayendra in Bengaluru Friday.

She was hoping to retain the seat as a BJP candidate this time around and had met all senior central leaders of the BJP, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to make her case.

“I have presented my case saying that if the BJP gets the seat, it can build the party there because when compared to other places, it does not have a very strong base in Mandya yet. And if we give up this seat, it will be very challenging in the coming times,” Sumalatha told ThePrint.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Vijayendra said that “all issues are being discussed by our central leaders”. “I am confident… Sumalatha has her own strength and responsibility to carry forward the legacy of Ambareesh… keeping all this in mind, I think she will make a good decision.”

Kumaraswamy entered electoral politics in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections from Kanakapura, marking the entry of Deve Gowda’s second family member (after H.D. Revanna) into public life. The Gowda dynasty now spans three generations with nine members currently active politically.

Revanna, Gowda’s older son, had successfully contested from Holenarasipur assembly seat in 1994 and has used this to maintain an iron grip over the district of Hassan, under which the seat falls.

A film producer and distributor until his 1996 debut, Kumaraswamy sparked fissures within the Gowda household with his political entry over who would take control of the JD(S) — a battle that has manifested in various forms till date.

Kumaraswamy was defeated in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections from the same seat and he waited till 2004 to enter the Karnataka assembly. He had also allied with the BJP in 2006, just two years after the JD(S) pulled away from the Dharam Singh-led government, in coalition with the Congress in Karnataka.

At the time, Kumaraswamy had purportedly done so against the wishes of Gowda and then became CM for the very first time. Both leaders were the first father-son duo to be CM of a state. Gowda was CM in 1994 and then Prime Minister two years later.

The first BJP-JD(S) alliance lasted just over a year, being premised on an agreement that Kumaraswamy and veteran BJP leader B.S. Yediyurappa would take turns to become CM. A week after Kumaraswamy gave up the CM’s chair to Yediyurappa, the former pulled out of the alliance that helped the BJP to gain significantly and become the single largest party in the 2008 state elections.

Kumaraswamy again went back to the Lok Sabha in 2009 after delimitation. He has also contested from Ramanagara and Channapatna assembly seats.

Kumaraswamy had fielded his son Nikhil from Ramanagara assembly seat in 2023, but he lost the poll. If the former CM does manage to win Mandya this time around, he is likely to field Nikhil from Channapatna, people aware of the developments told ThePrint.

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