With the May 23 Lok Sabha results likely to dramatically alter the political landscape in Karnataka, one party which is definitely at the crossroads is the Janata Dal (Secular) led by former PM H.D. Deve Gowda.
There are big stakes for the Gowda family in these LS polls as it has fielded as many as three of its family members in its bastions in the Old Mysore region much to the consternation of the younger generation in the Vokkaliga community who frown on favouritism. If all three family members-Deve Gowda from Tumakuru, and grandsons Nikhil Kumaraswamy (Mandya) and Prajwal Revanna (Hassan) make it to Parliament and the Mahagathbandhan manages to come to power, the prospects of a generational change in the party look bright.
There is however sure to be trouble if one or two of the family members lose. Though Prajwal Revanna looks formidable in Hassan, both Nikhil and Deve Gowda are facing a stiff challenge in Mandya and Tumakuru. A defeat in Mandya is sure to demoralise the JD(S) in the Vokkaliga heartland . The big shock however would be a loss for Gowda senior in Tumakuru which would well seal his national ambitions with signs of this already evident after Mr Gowda stopped visiting other states to campaign for the Congress or Third Front parties.
The damage to the JD(S)' political reputation too would be severe, something even Mr Deve Gowda would find hard to undo. The ageing patriarch of the Janata parivar and even the Vokkaliga community has more than once made clear his intentions to retire from electoral politics and a blow to the poll hopes of his grandsons is the last thing he would want at this juncture.
And what about his successor with the patriarch already in his mid-eighties?
Filling the shoes of Mr Deve Gowda is none too easy with elder son and PWD Minister H.D. Revanna an unlikely successor who has restricted himself to Hassan politics. With his strong likes and dislikes, Revanna lacks the diplomatic skills which any leader aiming high would be looking to cultivate. His wife Bhavani has political ambitions but Kumaraswamy, knowing the dynamics of family centric politics, has carefully ensured that she is restricted to the Hassan ZP.
Kumaraswamy, his health problems apart, is the heir apparent no doubt and has been adept in using his father's clout in state and national politics for his own success. Much more amiable than his brother Revanna, Kumaraswamy makes friends fast and is uncompromising with his political rivals. The only exception he made was with Water Resources Minister D.K. Shivakumar, with whom the entire family brokered a truce before the last Assembly elections in 2018. Talking about successors, the next-gen of the Gowda family-has a lot of catching up to do with Kumaraswamy. The CM himself maybe made a tactical error by pushing his son into the movies a bit too soon and then made a clever shift by getting him JD(S) ticket for the Mandya parliament seat. As for Prajwal Revanna, son of Mr H.D. Revanna, he has made no secret of his ambitions and has started working at the grassroot level but is yet to build a stature of his own in Hassan politics. There is another herculean task the JD(S) faces besides making sure the bat
on passes smoothly to the next generation. It is the vexed issue of tackling the political uncertainty following the LS poll results. If the NDA sweeps back to power, there are sure to be ripples in Karnataka with the Siddaramaiah group in the Congress likely to step up pressure for Kumaraswamy's exit. Even if the JD(S) offers to make Dr G Parameshwar CM and agrees to play the junior partner by making Mr Revanna Deputy CM, it is unlikey that loyalists of Siddaramaiah will back off and give in to this 'peace deal.'
Sources say that there is another possibility -of the coalition government being toppled if Mr Modi returns to power at the Centre and Governor's rule being imposed in the state. In fact state BJP leaders have reportedly been instructed to get ready for mid-term polls by November instead of trying to cobble together a government with the support of Congress rebels. How the JD(S) tackles these challenges remains to be seen.
Deve Gowda has had a meteoric rise in politics, starting from humble beginnings to become chief minister and prime minister and also becoming the undisputed king of Vokkaliga politics. In the process, he had to sacrifice the goodwill of the majority Lingayat community, which has never forgiven him for not giving former CMs late S.R. Bommai and J.H. Patel-both Lingayats- their due in the organisation.
As he turned more and more pro-Vokkaliga, Gowda also alienated the Kurubas by not making their top leader, Siddaramaiah CM when he did have an opportunity. For this very reason, the party's reach in the years to come could be restricted to the community and the Old Mysore region unless a pan-Karnataka leader emerges from its ranks to stride the state scene.
But what immediately matters for Deve Gowda and his family is ensuring the JD(S) continues to be in government to enjoys its share of the spoils of power. The regional party which was handed the CM post on a platter by the Congress, has already touched the peaks of political success. Its future will depend on how it makes the best of the uncertain times to strike a political deal which will ensure it loses none of its relevance in Karna taka politics despite its average poll performances....