Even as Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is expected to launch campaigning in favour of JD(S) candidate L R Shivaramegowda for the bypolls from Mandya Lok Sabha constituency at Malavalli, on Friday, a section of the Congress leaders and workers are in two minds about canvassing for the candidate of the coalition partner. Kumaraswamy will campaign across Malavalli and other parts of the constituency till Saturday.
Many state leaders, including former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, have been campaigning in favour of BJP candidate Siddaramaiah, for the past couple of days.
Following a tour of former chief minister Siddaramaiah, chairman of the JD(S)-Congress Coalition Coordination Committee, under the constituency — at Mandya and KR Nagar — a section of the Congress leaders and workers say that they are committed to the coalition guidelines, but they still have a psychological barrier to campaign for a JD(S) candidate.
It has to be noted that in Mandya, the stronghold of the JD(S), where the BJP has no base, Congress is the traditional rival of the JD(S). Some of them complained that the coalition candidate Shivaramegowda has not contacted them.
Former minister M S Athmananda, who is at present KPCC general secretary, said, once the election campaign is launched by Kumaraswamy, the Congress leaders will join the movement.
“JD(S) candidate Shivaramegowda met me and some other leaders on the day of filing his nomination papers itself. Again, on Wednesday, he visited the houses of the late MLC Ramesh Raju, the late leader M B Srikanth and ex-MP G Madegowda,” said Athmananda.
A leader, on condition of anonymity, said, just five months back, the leaders of both the coalition partners spewed venom against each other. “The accusations and abuse had reached the personal level in most of the cases. Those who had abandoned the JD(S), like former minister N Chaluvarayaswamy and ex-MLA Ramesh Bandisiddegowda, found shelter in the Congress. In the recent polls to the local civic bodies also, candidates of the partners were pitched against each other. Thus, it is an embarrassing situation,” he said.
Shivaramegowda said, he is constrained by time, but still he has already met senior leaders of the Congress, seeking their blessings and also support. “It is not practical to either call or visit all the Congress leaders. Congress is a vast party with many leaders. I was also in the Congress once. Most of them know me well. They also know that I have so far faced nine elections and that I have not been elected to any legislature since 22 years. So, I appeal to them to support me and also to canvass in my favour,” he said.
The JD(S) leaders have been holding JD(S)-Congress workers’ meetings at the taluk level for the past couple of days. However, the meetings have been poorly represented by Congress workers. The Congress workers’ grouse is that the banners and flex boards put up by the JD(S) has portraits of only former ministers Ambarish and Athmananda from the district. “Why should we go to their meetings, where our leaders are neglected?” they ask.
“All MLAs and MLCs under Mandya Lok Sabha constituency are JD(S) leaders. They also have three ministers — C S Puttrajau, D C Thammanna and Sa Ra Mahesh. Besides, most of the local bodies are under their control. So, they are neglecting us,” blamed a Congress leader.
A JD(S) leader argued, “As coalition ‘dharma’ the Congress leaders and the workers should support our candidate. They also do not have a choice. Can they support the BJP? Besides, most of the voters are independent of any party leader or worker. They vote on their own will. In the last election, the Congress had secured around 5.19 lakh votes. The BJP had secured around 86,000 votes. Can the disgruntled Congress leaders and workers turn these many votes in favour of the BJP?”