JD(S)-Cong Rivalry in Mandya to Affect Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s Debut?

The alliance between the Congress and JD(S) in Karnataka is projected as a success story, ahead of the 2019 general election, where the Opposition unity is expected to play a key role against the BJP. But for the coalition partners in Karnataka, the biggest challenge lies in Mandya, a district 100 km away from Bengaluru.

For decades, the JD(S) and the Congress have been rivals in Mandya. Though the senior leadership of both parties have come together to fight the BJP, whether the grassroot-level party workers will accept this reality, remains a big question.

In 2018 Assembly elections, the JD(S) had won all eight MLA seats in Mandya and this confidence prompted the party to choose Mandya for Chief Minister Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumar’s political debut.

But problems began when late Kannada actor and Congress politician Ambareesh’s wife Sumalatha demanded a ticket. The Congress party, which in the seat-sharing agreement had given Mandya to the JD(S), had refused Sumalatha a ticket.

This fuelled dissidence among Congress workers, who were already unhappy about their party forgetting the historical rivalry and joining hands with the JD(S).

Also Read: Sumalatha Ambareesh Goes Up Against Kumaraswamy’s Son Nikhil Gowda

Congress Workers Support Sumalatha

Sumalatha later announced her candidature as an independent. On the day of her nomination, many Congress workers came out in her support, opposing the party’s decision to support the JD(S).

"“This alliance has happened at the top level. But at the worker level, we have suffered at the hands of JD(S). Our houses have been attacked and we have been harassed by JD(S) workers over the years. So, we are voting for Sumalatha.” " - Srinivas, one of the Congress workers.

“No person has been paid money to come here. We are Ambareesh’s fans, Congress workers. We are here to ensure Sumalatha wins and Ambareesh’s respect is upheld,” said Krishnappa Sathnur, another Congress worker.

At the same time, this dissidence within the Congress has united the traditional JD(S) vote bank in Mandya. “From our parents’ time, we have been voting for the JD(S). We will continue doing so. We will vote for whomever Deve Gowda fields,” said Prasanna Kumar, a JD(S) support.

Headaches for the Coalition

The coalition has three main challenges in launching chief minister’s son Nikhil from Mandya. First, resolving the traditional rivalry between the JD(S) and the Congress. Second, overcoming the perception that the JD(S) is a mere extension of the Gowda family’s politics and third, to fight the popularity gained by Sumalatha.

JD(S)’ Threat to Congress

The rebellion within the party is a big concern for the Congress. According to sources, the JD(S) has threatened to sabotage the Congress’ chances in Mysuru if they don’t get support from the Congress in Mandya. In Mysuru, the Congress is heavily dependent on vote transfer from the JD(S) to win the seat back.

In its attempt to show resolve, the Congress has dismissed some of its workers for supporting Sumalatha. But it needs to be seen whether the Congress voters in Mandya will support Sumalatha or the alliance.

Also Read: BJP to back Sumalatha in Karnataka's Mandya

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