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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

Janata Dal Ameoba splits again

By Chandra Mohan - Syndicate Features

So, another split in the Janata Dal (Secular)! But the ‘Janata’ family has become synonymous with splits and another rupture hardly causes any political ripples. A noticeable thing about the latest drama in the JD(S), however, is that it revolves round the president of the party, former prime minister, H. D. Deve Gowda, who runs the party unit in his home state, Karnataka, as his fiefdom.

As is inevitable at the time of a split in a party, one group has expelled prominent members of the other and the rival camps have laid claim to be the ‘real’ party. The Election Commission will have to arbitrate on the matter and the chief merit of this step would be an assured long status quo in the post-split status. Anyway, the fact is that because of the trouble within the Karnataka unit of the JD(S), some prominent members of the party have parted company with Deve Gowda and have decided to function under the leadership of Socialist leader Surendra Mohan. This arrangement, of course, is not recognised by Messrs Deve Gowda & Co. That hardly matters to the rival camp of Gowda critics.

Dissensions in the Karnataka JD(S) surfaced forcefully after the party decided to leave its alliance with the Congress and form the government with the help of the Bharatiya Janata Party, otherwise an ‘untouchable’ for the JD(S). This facilitated the installation of Deve Gowda’s son, H. D. Kumaraswamy as chief minister, something that was in the script written by the Gowda family.

Expectedly, the anointing ceremony was preceded by some drama with Deve Gowda, the family patriarch, even disowning the decision of the JD(S) to join hands with the ‘communal’ BJP. Deve Gowda, who proclaims himself as a ‘humble farmer’, justified the Karnataka JD(S) decision to break out of its uneasy alliance with the Congress that had given the state its first coalition government. In the same breath he contended he was not the force behind the new alliance with ‘communal’ BJP. No eye brows were raised!

At the time of forging of new tie-up, Deve Gowda family wanted an absolute control over the affairs of the Karnataka JD(S) as well as the state administration. Rivals of Deve Gowda or his chief minister son had to be prepared for secondary roles. One JD(S) leader who opted out was Siddaramaiah and he took his revenge recently, first by defeating the JD(S) candidate chosen by the chief minister--albeit by a wafer thin majority-- in an assembly by-election and then by engineering with the help of another critic of Deve Gowda, M.P.Veerendrakumar of Kerala, a bigger revolt in the JD(S) as a result of which Deve Gowda was ‘expelled’.

While hitting back at their opponents, the official faction of the JD(S) showered copious praise on Messrs Deve Gowda & Co. A resolution passed by the ‘national executive’ of the JD(S) placed on record its ‘deep appreciation of the vigilant and timely action taken by the legislators led by Kumaraswamy to protect the party from the machinations and conspiracies of the Congress aimed at its extermination from the political scenario of the state and the nation.’ The resolution appreciated that in aligning with the BJP, Kumaraswamy acknowledged as his father’s proxy, had not compromised on the party’s ‘basic principle’ of secularism. That was a great compliment indeed, considering that when accused of blessing the JD(S)-BJP coalition, Deve Gowda had hit back by declaring that the ties with the BJP would ‘hit at the very soul of the party (JD(S)’.

That the Congress was working for the ‘extermination’ of the JD(S) may be a bit of an exaggeration when the party faces a double onslaught from the JD(S) and the BJP in the state. But even if it is true it is strange that the official wing of the JD(S) in Karnataka pretends that it is not aware of the ‘machinations’ of its new found ally, the BJP. It is hardly a secret that the former union minister, Ananthkumar, who is perhaps the BJP equivalent of Deve Gowda in Karnataka BJP, has higher ambitions to fulfil for which he is willing to do all it takes to dislodge Kumaraswamy. In any case, relations between the two present coalition partners are not very different from the edgy ties the JD(S) had with the Congress earlier..

The BJP may not wreck the Karnataka coalition just now because its prime objective is to make deep inroads into the state. The coalition has provided it a strong launch pad for forays into the rest of south India, generally considered to be a territory hostile to the saffron party. In the brief period that the JD(S)-BJP coalition has worked so far the communal temperature of Karnataka has risen sharply. But then that is how the official JD(S), the party in power, is preserving its ‘basic principle’ under the guidance of the father-son duo of Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy.

The split in Karnataka JD(S) however takes one back to the time in 1999 when Deve Gowda himself had led a split in the party by breaking company with the then party president, Sharad Yadav because the latter had decided to join hands with the ‘communal’ BJP at the Centre. And when eight of the Deve Gowda loyalists were sacked from the state ministry by the then chief minister, J. H. Patel, Deve Gowda had led a siege to the JD(S) office.

Karnataka’s political alliances, as in many other states, have always been a bit complicated. At the time mentioned above, Siddaramaiah was with Deve Gowda and held the position of deputy chief minister. The chief minister who removed the Gowda loyalists was the late J.H.Patel who owed his position to Deve Gowda. But Patel had also been in touch with men like the R.K.Hegde who never got along with the ‘humble farmer’ and ran a party of his own by leaving the JD(S).

The round of splits in JD(S) will undoubtedly continue when ego and personality clashes, not issues and principles, interfere in running the affairs of a party. The Indian electorate may be poorer by these splits in a party that was formed by the late Jayaprakashnarayan just after the Emergency was lifted to give to India a party that valued ‘principles’. In fact, the mother Janata Party was born as ‘a party with a difference’ at a time when the phrase was far from the minds of its present owners, the BJP. The irony is that both the ‘Janata Parivar’ and the BJP ‘Parivar’ are now inflicted by differences galore.

- Syndicate Features -

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