By Sushil Kutty
Whether or not the Janata Dal (S) joins the Opposition’s joint efforts to forge unity for the 2024 general elections does not count for zilch because the Gowda family’s party has lost relevance even in Karnataka forget any place else in the country. The drubbing the JD(S) received in the Karnataka assembly elections does not lend the party any superior aura compared to the opposition parties trying to forge unity to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power in 2024.
Therefore, for JD(S) patriarch and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda to dismiss JD(U) supremo and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s untiring efforts to bring together all opposition parties on a single platform is presumptuous and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves. HD Deve Gowda and the JD(S) have every right to not join Nitish Kumar’s bandwagon, but he shouldn’t be going around undermining the unity efforts. Would the former Prime Minister have had the opposite opinion if the Janata Dal (S) hadn’t fared so poorly in the assembly elections or if the Bharatiya Janata Party hadn’t lost?
Point to note here, is getting rid of the Modi regime a priority for the Janata Dal (S) or not? For, if there is one condition that should bind all opposition parties together, it’s a strong desire to defeat the BJP so as to oust Modi. There cannot be a half-hearted member in this joint operation. And the JD(S) behaviour post the Karnataka election loss does not engender confidence.
HD Deve Gowda highlights this best when he lines up feeble excuses to beat around the bush rather than take a firm line on opposition unity. Questioning the likelihood of opposition unity because “which party did not have an alliance with the communal BJP” cannot be an excuse to oppose unity. Except for the Congress, no party passes this test. Every other party has had an association with the BJP “directly or indirectly”.
At 91, and after being “PM, CM and MP”, Deve Gowda can analyse national politics, but in his own words “what is the use?” Deve Gowda appears quite bitter with his party’s loss in the Karnataka elections and the Congress party’s thumping victory, which appears to have brought him closer to the BJP. The JD(S) won only 19 seats, and its vote share fell heavily. The en bloc transfer of Muslim votes to the Congress particularly hit the Janata Dal (S) hard.
It now seems ready to align with the “communal BJP”. “Had they (the Congress) not gone to the doors of M Karunanidhi, who supported (the BJP for) six years. There have been many instances like this… Either directly or indirectly. I can go on arguing….” With that, isn’t Deve Gowda setting the stage for a BJP-JD(S) alignment for the 2024 general elections at the expense of strengthening the opposition alliance against the BJP?
The political atmosphere in Karnataka post the assembly polls suits the JD(S) to be anti-Congress and aligned with the BJP. Deve Gowda’s long years in politics weren’t for nothing; he knows the lay of the land. However, Deve Gowda has disappointed the opposition parties lined up against the BJP as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will concede. But who would have thought the Congress would get 135 assembly seats and push the JD(U) into the BJP fold! Is Nitish Kumar jinxed?
Then again, imagine Deve Gowda being happily okay to be seen in the company of the “communal” BJP? HD Deve Gowda’s defense is who will decide which party is communal and which party is not communal?
The fact is, the JD(S) would only lose again if it aligned with a resurgent Congress. And the Muslim vote-bank has every reason to vote Congress en bloc in 2024, too. So, an alliance with the BJP works far better for the JD(S).
Also, Nitish Kumar’s unity efforts might work for the JD(U), but not for the JD(S). And somebody has told Deve Gowda that some Congress leaders are thinking of ditching the grand old party and joining the Bharatiya Janata Party! The senior Gowda was also speaking for Junior Gowda, HD Kumaraswamy. Both father and son are in the same boat after Karnataka elections 2023 with the senior Gowda taking the lead in serving toasts to the BJP, starting with praise for Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for his “handling of the Odisha train catastrophe”. The rest of the opposition wants Vaishnav’s head, but HD Deve Gowda says “Carry On Minister”!
Deve Gowda also led his party to the inauguration of the new Parliament building. The fact of the matter is, opposition unity is paramount for ousting Modi. A couple of more losses in the remaining 2023 assembly elections and Modi’s 2024 fate will be sealed. HD Deve Gowda, however, must have calculated that post the Karnataka election showing, there’s no other go for the JD(S) but to sink or float with the BJP. (IPA Service)