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Karnataka: HDD fails to bridge rift between sons over seat

'i Am Still Alive, Will Tour Every District', Says Deve Gowda
Photo Credit : IANS

Bengaluru: Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Deve Gowda’s attempt to find a solution to the slugfest that has erupted between his two sons, HD Kumaraswamy and HD Revanna over Revanna’s wife, Bhavani’s candidacy from Hassan Assembly seat, remained unsuccessful on Sunday night as neither side was ready to accept a compromise.

Deve Gowda reportedly spent over two hours at his Padmanabhanagar residence with Kumaraswamy, Revanna and Bhavani trying to convince them that the interests of the party and family unity were more important than personal ambitions.

Sources said Gowda agreed with Kumaraswamy that the Hassan seat should be left to a party worker and Bhavani should not insist on her contest ‘this time’. He even offered to make her an MLC after the Assembly polls.

Rejecting the offer, both Revanna and Bhavani reportedly insisted that Bhavani had waited for long and informal campaigning during the last two months had showed that the people were ‘very favourable’ to Bhavani’s candidature and she should not be denied party ticket.

But, Kumaraswamy argued that he had chosen HP Swaroop, son of a former JD(S) MLA, S Prakash, to contest from Hassan as he had a good image and also belonged to ‘Dasa Vokkaliga’ who were in large numbers throughout the district. As Gowda supported Kumaraswamy’s stand, Bhavani and Revanna left the meeting in a huff.

The party’s second list of candidates has been held up for over two months with both sides digging their heels and refusing to budge. The two brothers have publicly quarrelled over the issue and Gowda’s intervention was the last hope of finding a solution.

At 91 years, Gowda’s health remains delicate, and not long ago, there was a lot of anxiety in the family and party’s circles when Gowda had to be admitted to hospital for nearly 10 days.

Now, it remains to be seen whether Bhavani will enter the field as an independent candidate defying Kumaraswamy’s diktat and Deve Gowda’s persuasion as Revanna himself wields considerable influence in Hassan district.

Bhavani’s ambition

It was in mid-March that Bhavani Revanna expressed her desire to contest from Hassan city, the only Assembly seat out of seven in Hassan district, which is outside the ‘control’ of the family. Preetam Gowda of the BJP is the sitting MLA from Hassan city. Bhavani had even begun her campaigning saying the “family elders” would soon announce her candidature.

But, there was a quick rebuttal of her claim by Kumaraswamy who said the party had already identified a ‘good candidate’ for Hassan city and he would advise Revanna and Bhavani suitably. When reporters persisted with more questions, Kumaraswamy had retorted: “The matter will be resolved within the family and not on the streets”.

Bhavani’s sister-in-law, Anitha Kumaraswamy, is already a two-time MLA and perhaps feels that she too should find a foothold in politics when her father-in-law Deve Gowda is still around and wields a lot of respect. Bhavani’s earlier brush with politics was being elected as a one-time member of the Hassan zilla panchayat.

With his father unable to campaign, Kumaraswamy has taken on the responsibility to travel round the state almost single-handedly, even though he too does not enjoy a robust health having undergone triple heart surgeries a few years ago. He is asking the people to give him “one final chance with a full mandate” to implement his pet schemes for farmers and rural women.

Kumaraswamy is apparently worried about the public perception that JD(S) is increasingly seen as a ‘family fiefdom’ where the interests of other leaders and party workers are not adequately met. He does not want Bhavani to enter the election fray as already, six members of the family hold elected positions: Deve Gowda is a Rajya Sabha member, Revanna, Kumaraswamy and Anitha Kumaraswamy (Kumaraswamy’s wife) are MLAs and among Revanna’s two sons Prajwal Revanna is a Lok Sabha MP from Hassan and Suraj Revanna is an MLC.

Besides, Kumaraswamy has made it known that his son Nikhil Kumaraswamy will contest from Ramanagara constituency and he himself would shift to Channapatna. Nikhil, had contested from the Mandya Lok Sabha seat in 2019 and lost to cine actress Sumalatha Ambareesh by a margin of over one lakh votes.

A female chief minister?

The party circles are agog with rumours that a Gowda family astrologer has predicted that after 2023 elections, “a female member has a bright chance of becoming the chief minister.” They say that Kumaraswamy is ‘worried’ about Bhavani turning a challenger to him if she were to contest and win the election. Hence his strong opposition to Bhavani contesting from Hassan, they argue.

Of course, the main fight in the current round of elections is between Congress and the BJP and JD(S)’s hopes hinge on an inconclusive verdict. In 2018, it was only because the BJP, which emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats failed the majority test that the Congress and JD(S) could come together to form a coalition government, which lasted 14 months.

The JD(S)’s support base is in the Old Mysuru region, the Vokkaliga belt, which accounted for 30 of the 37 seats that the party won last time. This time, both Congress and BJP are making Herculean efforts to snatch as many seats as possible from JD(S) and be able to form a government on their own.

With the elections due on May 10, less than six weeks away, the current odds are on a ‘hung’ Assembly, which is music to the ears of Kumaraswamy. He simply does not want a ‘family dispute’ to distract attention of the people and spoil JD(S)’s electoral prospects.

By Ramakrishna Upadhya

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