JD-S to shed family, caste tag, shun BJP

Bangalore, Aug 31 (IANS) Long made fun of as "thande-makkala paksha' (father and sons' party) dependent mainly on one caste, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) seems to be making efforts to shed the tag following the drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha bypolls from Karnataka.

The party has also been left with little option but to give up hopes of a tie-up with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the general elections due early next year as the arrangement failed to help the JD-S retain the two Lok Sabha seats for which bypolls were held Aug 21.

The Congress won both the seats, Bangalore Rural and Mandya, considered JD-S bastions. Mandya is about 80 km from Bangalore.

D.K. Suresh of the Congress bagged Bangalore Rural defeating Anita Kumaraswamy, daughter-in-law of JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Anita is married to Gowda's son H.D. Kumaraswamy who had won the Bangalore Rural seat in the 2009 general elections.

Mandya was taken by Kannada actor Ramya of the Congress, beating C.S. Puttaraju of the JD-S. N. Cheluvarayaswamy of the JD-S had bagged the seat in 2009.

The bypolls followed as Kumaraswamy and Cheluvarayaswamy vacated the seats on getting elected to the Karnataka assembly in the May 5 elections.

Following the debacle, Kumaraswamy quit as state JD-S chief and a search is on for a successor. He will however continue as the JD-S leader in the assembly.

Gowda held a meeting with the party's senior leaders in Bangalore Wednesday to decide on measures to rid the JD-S of the "thande-makkala paksha" and "Vokkaliga party" tags.

The derisive reference is because while Gowda is the 'national president' of the party, Kumaraswamy was the state unit chief while another son, H.D. Revanna, is a legislator.

Anita Kumaraswamy is a former member of the assembly.

Gowda belongs to the Vokkaliga caste which constitutes about 15 percent of the state's over 60 million population and has a dominating presence in southern Karnataka.

The JD-S is strong only in this part of the state.

As part of the effort for a new-look JD-S, Gowda has decided to constitute a coordination committee comprising around 15 senior members of the party belonging to various communities.

The committee, Gowda hopes, will rid the notion that all decisions are taken by him alone or at best in consultation with his family members only.

Gowda told the meeting the JD-S will stick to its policy of equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP and will fight the Lok Sabha elections, due in April-May next, on its own.

The decision is a fallout of unhappiness expressed by several JD-S leaders over the "tacit understanding" with the BJP for the Bangalore Rural and Mandya bypolls.

As part of the understanding, the BJP withdrew its candidates from the fray while the JD-S, in return, did not field any nominee for the bypolls to three legislative council seats held Aug 22.

The arrangement failed in both instances as the Congress won two of the legislative council seats while the third was taken by an Independent.

All three seats were held by the BJP and the bypolls followed the resignation of the incumbents for various reasons.

The JD-S, though a recognized national party, has a major presence only in southern Karnataka and expects that its "democratisation" efforts will expand its base to other parts of the state.

The party won only 40 of the 225 seats in the Karnataka assembly in the May 5 elections.

It had bagged just three of the 28 Lok Sabha seats from the state in the 2009 elections. With Kumaraswamy and Cheluvarayaswamy quitting the Lok Sabha, Gowda is the party's sole representative in the house.

(V. S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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