Issue :   
December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:December' 2018


Mahagathbandhan hopes !

Mamtha Sharmafrom Bangaluru

H.D. Kumaraswamy with Congress leader Siddaramaiah.

The stunning 4-1 win by Karnataka’s ruling Congress-JDS combine during this November’s bypolls has , predictably, demonstrated the power of alliance arithmetic while reviving opposition parties’ hopes against the ruling NDA under BJP.
The wins come close on the heels of the Mahagathbandhan that the opposition was seeking to stitch together in May this year, before the BSP and Samajwadi Party poured cold water over the attempt.
Post the Congress-JDS performance in the Karnataka bypolls the opposition is now seeing some positives ,evidenced also by the attempts that Chandrababu Naidu, TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh chief minister, and one time ally of the NDA, is making again to forge a common front against an aggressive BJP . His recent meetings with JDS supremo, Deve Gowda , in the IT capital and DMK chief in Chennai are cases in point.
The strategic tie up alone by the Congress-JDS combine, meanwhile, cannot explain the margins of wins in Karnataka’s byelections . What is more crucial is that in two of the three Lok Sabha seats, namely, Ballari and Shivamogga, the Congress and the JDS candidates, respectively, performed beyond expectations, staggering the BJP. These cannot but be obvious pointers that the mood against the party is changing.
In Ballari, for example, the Congress wrested the seat from the dominant BJP after 14 years and that too with an unprecedented margin of over two lakh votes. For the well entrenched BJP this was the biggest jolt as the party had thrown in all its resources in this iron ore rich constituency which had hit the headlines for the controversial mining barons, namely, Janardan Reddy and his family, and the clout that they wield.
The defeated BJP candidate and former MP, Ms V Shantha, is the sister of Sriramulu, confidant of the Reddy brothers, who holds sway in the constituency. Congress candidate ,V Ugrappa, an outsider to the constituency, in fact , kept pinching himself as he just could not grasp the import of the huge victory ,initially.
To that extent, for the Congress the recapture of Ballari was the biggest ever gain in the state in recent years, a clear morale booster for the forthcoming general elections in 2019.

V Ugrappa The credit for the Ballari success, incidentally, goes to Congress’ go to man, D K Shivkumar, who masterminded the party’s campaign. He played a major role in pacifying the six legislators in the district convincing them over the need to field an outsider like Ugrappa. Not only did he oversee the campaign, he even got the JDS and his party leaders to campaign together for Ugrappa.

D K Shivkumar Similarly, in Shivamogga the combine had much to cheer about even though it was the lone constituency which the BJP won, albeit with a comparatively low margin. Even though Madhu Bangarappa of the JDS lost to BJP’s B Raghvendra , the victory margin was a shocking low at 52 ,000 in a district which is considered to be the stronghold of party president and former chief minister, B S Yeddyurappa. Especially, as Raghvendra is Yeddyurappa’s son.The latter must still be wondering how his son managed to win considering the coming together of the JDS and Congress voters and their parties.
Obviously,as Bangarappa was the consensus candidate of the ruling combine, there was a major transfer of votes towards the JDS . To recall ,in the May assembly elections , the Congress had bagged 4.5 lakh votes with the JDS polling 2.5 lakh. Obviously, this time the coalition candidate, who secured 4.91 lakh votes , managed to get JDS and Congress votes as well for the Lok Sabha seat.

B S Yeddyurappa In Mandya, the third Lok Sabha constituency where by polls were held this November, JDS was a clear winner defeating the BJP . The only consolation for the losing party was that it managed to gain over 1. 6 lakh votes since 2014, in a constituency dominated by the JDS and Congress. In the only two byelections for the assembly seats of Ramanagara and Jamkhandi, the results were a foregone conclusion with Anitha Kumaraswamy of the JDS and wife of chief minister, H D Kumaraswamy, romping home easily.In Jamkhandi, the Congress managed to retain its seat without stretching itself much.

A warning bell

While the combined opposition in the state is obviousy gung ho with its performance, the BJP is worried by the results more so as it was confident of retaining Ballari and Shivamogga , in particular, without much ado and that too with a big margin.

The loss in Ballari has shocked the party, forcing leaders within and at the centre to raise questions about Yeddyurappa’s leadership. What is making the situation even more difficult for the BJP’s state unit president is the narrow win that the party secured in Shivamogga, the district which has remained under his dominance till now.

The dismal show has also given rise to some strong voices in the BJP’ s state unit which want a relook at the leadership. In fact, it is learnt that the 2019 elections will be fought under the guidance of the central leadership which does not want any mess ups.More so, as it is targeting 20 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka which the BJP has looked at as its gateway to the south .

At the same time, those close to Yeddyurappa feel that too much should not be read into the party’s performance, especially where the bypolls for the Lok Sabha are concerned. This is because the state leadership is confident of a turn around as the general elections are a different cup of tea. Besides, the voters, they argue , realise that national leadership and related issues would gain importance in the 2019 polls.

Chandrababu Naidu (L) with Deve Gowda (R) and HD Kumaraswamy Be that as it may, for the opposition parties in general, the Congress-JDS performance has given them the needed encouragement and they now want to cobble alliances even at the state level which can then be replicated for the general elections . Which is why octogenarian Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister and JDS’ chief, was happy to host Chandrababu N a i d u immediately after the byelections results. He believes that the results send the much needed message to the opposition parties that the only way to defeat the BJP is to come together . “That is the way to fight communal and divisive forces, “ is the refrain. Even though byelections’ results cannot be viewed as firm indicators of what assembly or general elections can throw up, the Congress ,in particular, would view its recent wins in Alwar and Ajmer in Rajasthan, as also Karnataka now , as the much needed cue to enthuse workers and leader alike on the eve of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Further, the Ballari results are also a repeat of the success achieved by the Samajwadi Party and the BSP earlier this year in Phulpur and Gorakhpur by coming together and in getting the better of the BJP.
Accordingly, for the opposition, first state specific alliances of non BJP parties as the right cue to take on the BJP . No wonder than that Chandrababu Naidu did not think twice before asking Deve Gowda to provide the needed guidance and mentorship to replicate such cooperation at the national level with 2019 in mind.