MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: After riding the crest of a wave over the past 40 months, by hook and by crook, the writing is on the wall for H.D. Deve Gowda. With the State headed for fresh polls, a year earlier than expected, it is the end of the political road for the Janata Dal (Secular).
Too clever by half, the party has burnt its bridges with the BJP, squandered its recently acquired goodwill among the people, spoiled its long-term prospects in the quest for short-term gains, and has been hoist with its own petard not once but twice in the space of two months by a wily Congress.
That all this has happened while Gowda was sitting pretty, exulting in his role as a master strategician, having manipulated matters deftly to ensure a large slice of the political cake than to which his party was entitled commensurate with its strength in the 224-member assembly, is sweet irony.
On two occasions, first through M.P. Prakash and now through the party supremo himself, the Congress led Gowda down the rose garden, dangling the carrot of a fresh alliance to thwart the BJP from forming a government south of the Vindhyas at a time when party is prepared to take on the might of Narendra Modi in Gujarat next month.
And on both occasions, the Congress coolly reneged, landing Gowda, his party men, and the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy with a bagful of problems, the most important being the problem of survival.
As it is, the JDS has only a sub-regional presence. In the Northern Karnataka districts, it has absolutely no base and Kumaraswamy’s rule hardly made any dent. And whatever little headway was made in terms of public visibility, has been botched up, first by the reluctance to pass on the baton to the BJP, and then by the refusal to endorse it.
A BJP-led coalition would have assuaged the feelings of hurt simmering in Northern Karnataka since the JDS’s phalanx of support in the assembly essentially comes from this region. The party legislators are nursing a feeling of being used and thrown, and most are apprehensive of facing the voter again.
This apart, with all other known leaders outside the Gowda clan having been drummed out of the party under one or the other pretext, the party leadership has become a privy of the Gowda family. Kumaraswamy, who had gained some acceptability, now has a tainted image as the one who cannot be trusted.
That leaves only Gowda and his other son in politics, H.D. Revanna. Age is taking toll of Gowda and Revanna has no public image. The party has no plank, political or otherwise, to face the people in the hustings. The future for the party appears quite dark, indeed, and this is what is worrying the rank and file, and perhaps Gowda, too.