Congress bypoll preparations hint at end of coalition with JD(S)
At a meeting of senior Congress leaders in Bengaluru on Thursday, the party decided to name teams to visit the constituencies of 17 disqualified rebel legislators that will hold by-elections later this year, possibly signalling the end of its coalition with the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S).
The meeting took place a week after the Congress-JD (S) coalition government was defeated in a floor test called by then-chief minister HD Kumaraswamy after the rebels, who were disqualified by the speaker, brought the coalition down to a minority in the assembly.
Of the 17 constituencies, there are many where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which assumed office after the coalition’s ouster, is a marginal force and the Congress and JD(S) are the main contenders.
The Congress’s apparent decision to part ways with the JD (S) comes after the partners’ dismal performance in the recent parliamentary elections, in which they managed to win only one each of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Both parties are attempting to rebuild their organisations in Karnataka amid concerns over disillusionment in the rank-and-file, especially in the Old Mysuru region where the two parties are bitter rivals.
Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao said after Thursday’s meeting that the party was preparing for polls in all 17 constituencies. When asked if this was the end of the coalition, he said: “Not saying that the alliance is over but this is a decision that our high command will look into.”
The statement came a day after former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, the JD (S) chief, said leaders of his party did not favour an alliance with any party in upcoming local body polls.
“Our candidates told us that they were not in favour of an alliance with any party in the upcoming local body polls,” he said. To be sure, both parties contested local body polls independently even when the coalition was in power.
A senior Congress leader said that although the decision on the coalition would be taken by the party high command, the Lok Sabha elections had shown that there was little chance of coordination between the two parties. “In fact, both parties stand to gain if it is a three-cornered fight. It is clear that if we contest together only the BJP gains,” the leader said.
Responding to Thursday’s development, Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) state president, said it was clear that the Congress did not wish to continue the coalition.
“If that is their resolve then we have no option but to fight separately. Maybe they will realise their mistake after the by-elections. Anyway, the decision on the coalition will be taken by Deve Gowda and Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and not the state unit,” he said.