HD Deve Gowda’s party, the JD(S), lost deposits in two-thirds of the seats it contested in the Karnataka Assembly elections earlier this year, paving the way for a Congress win in the state, data from an analytical report by the Election Commission (EC) shows.
For long, the political wisdom from Karnataka elections was that the collapse of the JD(S) in its stronghold Old Mysore region led to gains, and eventually victory, for the Congress. The Vokkaliga voters of the JD(S) seemed to have trusted Congress Vokkaliga leader from the region, DK Shivakumar, who is now the Deputy CM.
The EC’s analytical data now confirms that JD(S) lost deposits in 139 out of the 209 seats it contested in the state — meaning it lost badly in nearly 66% of the seats it contested. Gowda’s party lost nearly 15 lakh votes in Karnataka compared to the 2018 elections, and could secure wins in only 19 seats this time. This was nearly half of 38 seats that the JD(S) had won in 2018.
The data shows that the JD(S) loss directly translated to Congress gain in the state. The latter gained about 28 lakh votes in the 2023 election compared to 2018, while the BJP gained about 9 lakh votes, the EC report says. The biggest loser, hence, was the JD(S), whose voters seem to have shifted en masse to the Congress party in the elections earlier this year. So, is this the end of the JD(S)?
JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, on being discharged from hospital after suffering a mild stroke, called it his “third birth”. Just like its leader, the JD(S) is also hoping for an electoral rebirth in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, but analysts say that things are not looking up yet for the regional party.
Party leaders have been directed to spare no effort in orchestrating a targeted and sustained campaign to rejuvenate the outfit, both within the state and on a national scale. The party faced disappointing results in the recent Karnataka Assembly elections, where it secured 19 out of the 210 seats it fought, down by 18 seats from the previous elections.
JD(S) supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda has laid out a roadmap with the goal of securing at least six of the 28 seats from Karnataka in the Lok Sabha elections next year.
However, there are concerns that the Congress is actively attempting to lure JD(S) MLAs, potentially leading to a split within the party, just ahead of the General Elections. JD(S) sources claim that the Congress is actively pursuing 13 of the 19 JD(S) MLAs to resign, a move aimed at avoiding disqualification under the anti-defection law.
To counter this, the JD(S) has formed a 21-member central committee, led by Chamundeshwari MLA GT Deve Gowda, to boost the confidence of party MLAs and keep the flock together.
In 2017, seven JD(S) legislators had jumped ship to join the Congress ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections. This move was engineered by Siddaramaiah, the current Karnataka CM.
“Deve Gowda ji and the party seniors are well-informed of these poaching attempts and have given strict instructions to ensure that the JD(S) leaders stick together and the party remains intact,” said a senior party functionary, who claims that Kumaraswamy’s criticism of the Siddaramaiah government has forced the Congress hand to try and poach JD(S) leaders.
Party patriarch HD Deve Gowda had been hoping to hand over the political mantle to his grandsons, Prajwal Revanna and Nikhil Kumaraswamy, but their political roadmap seems to be dotted with roadblocks.
The future of the party appears to hinge on the younger generation. A comprehensive overhaul, including restructuring the party, is in the works to reflect its traditional values and commitment to the farming community, while presenting a refreshed image, said a JD(S) leader when asked about the party’s future.
“We will be presenting ourselves in a brand new avatar. It’s just a matter of time,” the leader said.
The latest setback faced by the JD(S) was the Karnataka High Court ruling that Gowda’s grandson and Hassan MP Prajwal Revanna’s election to the Lok Sabha seat stood disqualified over irregularities in his affidavit for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. JD(S) leaders, however, told News18 that it is not a matter of concern as it could be fought legally in the courts.
Prajwal, the grandson of Deve Gowda’s elder son and former Karnataka minister HD Revanna, has been accused of not disclosing all his assets and furnishing wrong disclosure on his assets. He is the party’s lone MP.
Gowda’s second grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost both elections he contested from his family turf Ramanagara – 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2023 Assembly polls. His father HD Kumaraswamy announced that Nikhil will concentrate on his movie career for the next five years and will not contest any more elections. Kumaraswamy made it clear that his son’s defeat was not the reason behind the latter stepping back from politics.
“Facing electoral defeat is part of the process. I know my responsibility. Defeats in elections are temporary… Time will answer everything.” Nikhil wrote on social media.
“The JD(S) is often called the kingmaker by the media. We are revamping in such a way that soon we will be able to gain the support and love of the people of Karnataka to form the government on our own,” added the JDS leader.
The JD(S) had also consulted with political strategist Prashant Kishor to look into increasing its footprint across Karnataka and gain more acceptance beyond its traditional stronghold of the Old Mysore region and primary vote bank, the Vokkaligas. The JD(S) had also been advised to ensure it projects itself as the party that works 24×7 in the interests of farmers and should be the go-to platform that will represent their needs when in deep distress.
The JD(S) needs to break free of the family-centric party image for a better future. The 21-member core committee led by GT Deve Gowda has been tasked with doing that along with gauging the possibility of independently contesting the Lok Sabha elections.
“The decision on providing support to the Opposition (BJP) in the Assembly on bills and issues will rest with the leader of the JD(S) Legislature Party, Kumaraswamy, depending on the specific subjects,” said CM Ibrahim, the state JD(S) president.
2024 is make or break for the JD(S), and, by extension, the Gowda clan.