Seat-sharing talks for LS polls could increase Congress-JD(S) woes as HD Kumaraswamy, others push for their kin

  • HD Kumaraswamy is attempting to launch his actor-son Nikhil Kumaraswamy into politics from Mandya in the upcoming Lok Sabha election

  • Sumalatha, wife of late actor-politician Ambareesh, has staked her claim for a Congress ticket from the same constituency

  • HD Kumaraswamy recently questioned Sumalatha’s contribution to Mandya, clearly displaying his annoyance at her ‘intrusion’ into the Vokkaliga territory

  • Though Congress and JD(S) leaders have already held two rounds of discussions, they have not been able to arrive at a consensus on the sharing of seats

  • A clearer picture on seat-sharing is likely to emerge only after the Congress-JD(S) coordination committee meeting on 4 March

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s attempt to launch his actor-son Nikhil Kumaraswamy into politics from Mandya in the upcoming Lok Sabha election is facing a strong hurdle in the form of Sumalatha, wife of late actor-politician Ambareesh, who has staked her claim for a Congress ticket from the same constituency.

Even as the leaders of ‘gathabandhan’ in Karnataka — Congress and the Janata Dal (S) — are involved in an intense battle over the sharing of 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state, Sumalatha’s unexpected entry – with the backing of a section of local Congress leaders – has resulted in a new headache for the coalition partners.

 Seat-sharing talks for LS polls could increase Congress-JD(S) woes as HD Kumaraswamy, others push for their kin

HD Kumaraswamy with Congress leader Siddaramaiah. PTI

Ambareesh, who passed away three months ago, was a popular Kannada film star having worked in over 200 films. He had represented Mandya thrice in the Lok Sabha and twice in the state Assembly, but the Congress was ready to offer this seat to JD(S) as part of an electoral understanding. In the bye-election held for the Mandya Lok Sabha seat a few months ago, JD(S)' Shivarame Gowda had won by a huge margin as Congress had not put up a candidate.

On Wednesday, Kumaraswamy, who was in Mandya, announcing a series of development projects worth over Rs 3,000 crore, took a potshot at Ambareesh saying he had done nothing for the constituency. He had earlier questioned Sumalatha’s contribution also, clearly displaying his annoyance at her ‘intrusion’ into the Vokkaliga territory.

Sumalatha, an actress herself, had always campaigned for Ambareesh and is no stranger to politics. She met former chief minister Siddaramaiah last week and formally sought his support. Though Siddaramaiah remained non-committal, Sumalatha has made it clear that she would contest the Lok Sabha polls from Mandya even as an independent. She may get cine superstars like Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi and Darshan to campaign for her as Ambareesh had a good rapport with them.

Meanwhile, JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda’s another grandson, Prajwal Revanna (son of Kumaraswamy’s elder brother HD Revanna), has been declared as JD(S) candidate from Hassan, as Deve Gowda has decided to move out. But, local Congress leaders say that they are ready to offer support to Gowda and not his grandson as he is ‘a political novice'.

Though the leaders of Congress and JD(S) have already held two rounds of discussions, they have not been able to arrive at a consensus on the sharing of seats.

While the JD(S), which currently holds just two seats, is demanding 10-12 seats, state Congress leaders are in no mood to offer more than six-seven seats. Complicating matters further, JD(S) wants even some of the seats won by Congress last time such as Tumakuru, Chikkaballapur, Chamarajanagar and Chitradurga on the grounds that JD(S) had done well in these places during the May 2018 Assembly polls and it has a better chance of winning these seats.

Deve Gowda is mulling to contest from either Bengaluru North or Mysuru, which have a strong presence of Vokkaligas, his community base. If he chooses Bengaluru North, he has to take on Union minister Sadananda Gowda, who is a Vokkaliga himself and it is said, there are more people from his ‘sub-caste’ here than Deve Gowda’s.

Two former ministers from the Congress Veerappa Moily and KH Muniyappa, who were elected from Chikkaballapur and Kolar, respectively, may not have it easy either. A triangular fight had helped Moily last time against BN Bacche Gowda of the BJP. It is rumoured that Moily would not be averse to go to Rajya Sabha if he is adequately ‘compensated’ for leaving a Lok Sabha seat.

Another Congress stalwart Mallikarjun Kharge, who has been elected to the Assembly nine times and twice to the Lok Sabha from Kalaburgi district, is facing a tough time as several local Congress leaders have turned against him for promoting his son, Priyak Kharge, at their cost.

Former MLA Qamar-ul-Islam is no more and two other strongmen from the district, Baburao Chinchansoor and Malikayya Guttedar, who used to support Kharge, are no longer with him. Besides, Dr Umesh Jadhav, a local Congress MLA, is all set to desert his party and join BJP to take on Kharge from Kalaburgi.

Efforts are being made to persuade Kharge to shift to Kolar in south Karnataka, but he is reportedly reluctant to leave his north Karnataka ‘fortress’, where he remains undefeated.

Moving to Kolar would also mean displacing KH Muniyappa, who is a seven-time MP and knows the constituency like the back of his hand. But, Congress leaders hope to convince Muniyappa that he should shift to Chitradurga this time, as the situation in Kolar is no longer ‘conducive’ for him.

A clearer picture on the sharing of seats between the Congress and the JD(S) is likely to emerge only after the two parties’ coordination committee meeting on 4 March.

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 22:56:19 IST