23 May could bring the kiss of life or death as far as the government in Karnataka is concerned. If the UPA comes to power in New Delhi with a large sprinkling of regional presence, it could strengthen the arrangement in the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru.
After all, the Karnataka experiment in the summer of 2018 was the first step taken by the Congress to demonstrate what it could do to keep the BJP out of power. By giving up the top job to a smaller partner, the JD(S) despite being numerically superior, the Congress wanted to convey to the country that it was accommodative in nature.
But don’t discount Mandya’s ability to cause disruption. This is the Lok Sabha constituency where HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Gowda has made his electoral debut. What was deemed to be a cakewalk in his family’s backyard turned into a fierce contest with actress Sumalatha (former minister, the late Ambareesh’s widow) entering the fray as an Independent.
Sumalatha was hoping to be fielded on a Congress ticket but the seat was allotted to the JD(S) as part of the alliance. She made her candidature count by roping in the BJP support for her. But what could prove critical is that several Congress leaders are believed to have worked for her clandestinely.
Proof of the pudding came in the form of video footage of a dinner meeting the Congress leaders from Mandya had with Sumalatha last week. These leaders had strongly opposed the fielding of a JD(S) candidate from Mandya and are interestingly followers of former chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Deccan Herald reported about an intelligence report that had predicted a setback for Kumaraswamy Junior. Should that happen, it will severely strain relations between the Congress and the first family of the JD(S). But the expectation now is that Nikhil will win but not by the kind of margin expected at the start of the campaign. His Mandya victory is important to ensure Karnataka does not witness another round of political nataka.
But it is not as if the JD(S) has not replied in kind. Higher Education minister GT Deve Gowda, who defeated Siddaramaiah in Chamundeswari in the 2018 assembly elections, revealed that a section of JD(S) cadre had worked in favour of BJP’s Pratap Simha in Mysuru. The Congress candidate in Mysuru was CH Vijayashankar and the Karnataka Congress was not amused by Deve Gowda’s admission.