Winds of change in old Mysore may hinder JD(S)

Winds of change in old Mysore may take wind out of JD(S)' sails

A number of JD(S) MLAs from this region are expected to jump ship to Congress in the run-up to the 2023 polls

JD(S) leader and former CM H D Kumaraswamy. Credit: DH Photo

The recent Legislative Council election results came as a rude shock for the JD(S), with the regional party losing ground in the old Mysore region. 

The results also saw the Congress regain an upper hand here, putting the BJP in a tricky spot, even as it hopes to make inroads in the region. 

The old Mysore region that comprises some 60-odd constituencies is a crucial bloc for any party in Karnataka to win elections and it was originally a Congress bastion where the JD(S) established a strong presence in recent decades. 

Dominated by the Vokkaliga community, the region includes Mysuru, Mandya, Hassan, Ramanagara, Chamarajanagar, Chikkaballapur, Kolar and Kodagu districts, among others.

Also Read | Council elections outcome setback to JD(S): Kumaraswamy

Some of the tallest leaders of both Congress and JD(S), including former chief ministers Siddaramaiah and H D Kumaraswamy, are from the region.

With just over a year left for the 2023 Assembly elections, the region is witnessing a shift in political dynamics.

In the Council election results this month, the JD(S) won only two seats in Hassan (Suraj Revanna) and Mysore-Chamarajanagar (C N Manje Gowda).

The regional party lost to Congress in its turf in Mandya. The Congress also won in Kolar, Tumkur and the second seat in Mysore-Chamarajnagar, reasserting its strength in the region.

This was a blow to the JD(S), which has already lost considerable seats in this region in the Chikkaballapur, Hunsur and Sira bypolls. 

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda lost in Tumkur, while his grandson Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost in Mandya. 

“The JD(S) have been kingmakers until now, a leverage which is being diluted. The region is now turning out to be a two-way fight between Congress and BJP,” points out M J Vinod, professor of international studies, politics and history at Christ (deemed-to-be-university).

A number of JD(S) MLAs from this region are expected to jump ship to Congress in the run-up to the 2023 polls.

The BJP is keenly watching the changing political landscape in the Old Mysore region, where the saffron party is building its base.

One BJP leader cautions against writing off the clout of the JD(S).

“The MLC polls are manipulated. The party still has a strong base at the grassroots level,” he said.

Congress hopes that the Vokkaliga factor will work in its favour.

“With KPCC president D K Shivakumar aspiring to be the CM, we’re seeing the community slowly coming together for his support. Such a trend was visible previously when Deve Gowda and S M Krishna became the CMs,” one Congress insider says. 

Plans are afoot in the party for further organisational strengthening.

“Booth-level rejuvenation will be the focus. We have also started a membership drive to reach 50 lakh members over three months,” says KPCC working president Saleem Ahmed.

The BJP, which wants to make a mark here, may field former CM B S Yediyurappa’s son B Y Vijayendra from Varuna, a constituency currently represented by Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra. The party has already made inroads here by winning Hassan and KR Pet Assembly seats.

What’s next for the BJP? The party leadership wants to make the best use of the changing dynamics in old Mysore by tying up with JD(S). 

“The strategy is to bring together Vokkaligas (who support JD-S) and Lingayats (supporting BJP),” a senior BJP leader says. 

BJP’s Hassan MLA Preetham Gowda points out that the party will have to nurture local leadership if it has to gain a stronger presence in the region.

While district incharge ministers who are appointed from other districts can coordinate and manage the cadre, winning an election requires local leaders who can connect with the cadre at the grassroots level, he opines.

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