OLD HATS IN THE RING

The JD (S) is banking on hopes alone to push up its tally in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections

Girish Nikam Delhi 

For the past 15 years, every time there has been an election, voters of Karnataka have heard former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s emotional refrain: “This will be my last elections”, uttered amidst copious tears as he appeals to them to vote for his party. 
Pushing 81, the man is still going strong. For someone who has been keeping unwell for years now, it is nothing short of a medical miracle that he is able to pick up the gauntlet, and put on his thinking cap – a wily one at that as some would say – to get ready for another electoral battle.

So, even his worst detractors admit that whatever his grassroots strength, his wily maneuvers, not to say his veteran presence in the political arena, keeps all his rivals on their toes.

His age notwithstanding, he is now back at the centre of a Third front, gathering eleven parties and strategizing to take on both the BJP and the Congress. People who know him feel that behind this game plan is a lurking ambition to somehow emerge as the compromise Prime Ministerial candidate, if a Third front is in any position to form a government. However ludicrous this aspiration may sound, Gowda is known to harbor absurd hopes.

What are the prospects of his party, the Janata Dal (S), in his own home state of Karnataka, which is the only place it exists in any viable manner? Gowda, one has to remember, was full of hopes of his party being in a position to dictate who forms the government in Karnataka in the last Assembly elections held on May 2013. However his hopes were dashed to the ground when Congress emerged victorious with a simple majority of its own. However, the JD(S) by winning 40 seats, did better than most had predicted.

As we go into the Lok Sabha polls, however, the JD (S) in Karnataka does not seem to have gained any ground post the Assembly elections. Gowda’s wish to come to Lok Sabha with a tally like the 16 seats that then undivided Janata Dal had won under his chief ministership in Karnataka is a pipedream now. The JD (S), which had won three seats in 2009, and is now reduced to one, after HD Kumaraswamy and the other member opted to contest the Assembly elections, only to lose in the by-elections, is in no better position now.

Experts say the party’s base and sphere of influence has narrowed down to just four districts, making it an unlikely candidate to take on the incumbent Congress and the BJP. Gowda can therefore, at best, hope to win a couple of seats, which is unlikely to give him any clout, even if his and Third Front colleagues’ hope of emerging as a strong force in a hung Parliament stands fulfilled. But not prone to giving up, Gowda can certainly be seen putting all his fading energies into the poll battle.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2014