For long, the JD(S) is known to be a family centric, Old-Mysuru based Vokkaliga dominated party, despite playing a major role in state government formation whenever elections have throw up a fractured mandate. However, the party is now determined to achieve an image makeover. While Kuruba community leader Mr H Vishwanath was made party state president, former legislator Y.S.V. Datta has been made campaign committee chairman. Both have a dream of making JD(S) a cadre based party. Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Mr Datta said that Mr Vishwanath wants to give the party a cultural face and make sure the popularity of leaders is not restricted to flex boards Excerpts from the interview:
You are closely associated with Mr Gowda for over four decades. What is the significance behind making you Campaign Committee chairman of the JD(S)?
Soon after I was defeated in the Assembly elections, I had asked Mr Deve Gowda and wrote to him too saying that I would not be an aspirant for an MLC seat or a Boards and Corporations post. I had said that I would like to work for the party and since the party president needed some kind of assistance, I think I have been given a post to assist him. I think I will have that responsibility till Parliament elections are over. I will be taking up the new job officially on January 12.
What are the primary challenges you face in preparing the party for Parliament elections?
At the moment, the JD(S) is perceived as a Deve Gowda family-run party with major support coming from the Vokkaliga community. The party is also seen as restricted to Hassan, Mysur, Mandya and Tumakuru. The biggest challenge for us is to change the party image so that it is not limited by these perception. Mr Vishwanath being party state president is the biggest strength for us, as he is from the Kuruba community. We have to start building a collective leadership, which may not be palatable to some leaders of our own party. However, if we do not ensure this, it will be difficult to retain the identity of JD(S). Besides, we have to provide a collective and cultural identity to the party. Though we started off based on the ideals of late Jayaprakash Narayan, the new breed of party workers are not aware of these ideals. Most of them become office bearers to print visiting cards and put their photos on flex boards. Mr Vishwanath wants training camps to be held for party cadre, before they become office bearers. We may oppose the BJP on every front, but we appreciate their cadre based party structure.
Mr Deve Gowda is asking for 12 Lok Sabha seats. Some party leaders have expressed their displeasure over the Congress attitude and want the party to go it alone in the Lok Sabha elections. What is the party's stand?
I don’t think Mr Gowda wants to go independently and he has spoken to me about this. Even in the worst case scenario, if we have to share seats on a 1:3 basis, we have to get anything between nine and ten seats. But Mr Gowda has asked for 12 and a proper picture will emerge when negotiations begin with senior Congress leaders.
But there are voices of discontent in the party about the way the Congress is treating JD(S), especially after they issued the Boards and Corporations appointment list, where they made appointments to JD(S) posts too...
There are such aberrations and some of our party cadre have been voicing their concerns. But Mr Gowda is very clear on the issue and has said that this would be brought to the notice of the Congress high command also. He has also spoken once to Mr Siddaramaiah about it and has asked him not to pressurise Mr Kumaraswamy to give in to all the demands of the Congress. The issues would be sorted out once the coalition partners sit down for talks on seat sharing.
There are some contentious constituencies like Tumkuru and Mysuru, where Congress cadre may not want to give up seats to the JD(S). What will you do about it?
In Old-Mysuru region, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) are traditional rivals. However, some of the issues were addressed during the last by-elections to Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya seats. Mandya is the biggest example where the Congress is very strong, but gave way to a Janata Dal (Secular) candidate. Even in Shivamogga, the Congress did not put up a candidate and gave the seat to Janata Dal (Secular). This kind of friction will disappear once the negotiations are over.
Basically, Janata Dal (Secular) is an Old-Mysuru based party, which hardly has any support of the Lingayat community. How will you address this problem?
We have already worked out a strategy to look beyond all these perceptions. In the first place, the party will have five regional teams, each headed by a working president. There will be 10 working committee members for each region. While the Hyderabad-Karnataka regional team would be headed by a Scheduled Caste leader, the Mumbai-Karnataka region would be headed by Lingayat leaders like Mr Horatti and Mr Kona Reddy. The central Karnataka region would be headed by a backward class leader. We will have a head for Old-Mysuru region as well as Malnad-Coastal Karnataka regions. These teams will ensure that the party cadre work with dedication among their communities, across the state.