Firefighting time leaves Congress edgy

Firefighting time leaves Congress edgy

The Congress joined hands with the JD(S) expressly to reduce the BJP’s Lok Sabha tally in Karnataka. But with 48 hours left for polling, the alliance is on the edge to save some of its own seats, instead.

According to Congress’ poll managers, the alliance has had to spend too much time and energy grappling with grassroots dissidence in the Mandya, Hassan, Tumkur, Mysore and Chikkaballapur Lok Sabha constituencies, shifting attention from the primary objective. In this part of Karnataka, the Congress and the JD(S) were bitter rivals, having fought each other fiercely for decades. 

Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats going to polls on April 18, the Congress is contesting in 10 and the JD(S) in four. “We’ve felt the pinch because much time got spent on ironing out differences,” a Congress poll manager said.  

The BJP holds six seats - Udupi-Chikmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Mysore, Bangalore North, Bangalore Central and Bangalore South - where the Congress and the JD(S) will have to muster up a large vote share to ensure victory. 

The Congress has decided to move on without making any last-minute attempt to rein in disgruntled leaders. “If they aren’t coming on board despite what we’ve tried, we won’t try any more,” said KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao.

Alliance leaders will intensify their campaign, especially door-to-door outreach, Rao said. The bickering is minor and “we are confident of winning more seats than the BJP,” he added. 

In the JD(S) bastion of Mandya, a section of Congress leaders - former legislators N Cheluvarayaswamy, A B Ramesh Bandisiddegowda and P M Narendra Swamy - is unwilling to support Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil, despite repeated attempts to pacify them. In fact, Kumaraswamy, whose government’s survival is said to depend on the performance of the alliance in the upcoming polls, has confined himself largely to Mandya. 

In Tumkur, where JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda is contesting against BJP’s G S Basavaraju, the Congress took time to deal with disgruntlement of incumbent MP SP Muddahanumegowda and his supporters.

In Hassan, too, the Congress had to tackle rebellion from its former minister A Manju, who is now contesting as the BJP’s candidate against Gowda’s grandson Prajwal.

Apparently, the grassroots dissidence in Mysore has been contained with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah shaking hands with his arch-rival GT Devegowda of the JD(S). It also appears that disgruntlement has been contained in Chikkaballapur, where veteran leader M Veerappa Moily is seeking re-election.