After Misfiring in LS Polls, Will Big Guns Gowda and Kharge Aim for RS to Re-enter National Political Arena?

Sharath Sharma Kalagaru

Two big guns of Indian politics, former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Deve Gowda, and former union minister and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge lost their seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Now both could aim for the Rajya Sabha to make a re-entry into the national political arena.

All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi has reportedly requested Deve Gowda to contest the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls and promised votes of Congress MLAs to get him elected. Sources from the both the Congress and JD(S) say that Sonia Gandhi has promised support only if Gowda contests. Gowda, who sacrificed his Lok Sabha seat Hassan for grandson Prajwal Revanna, was forced to contest from the Tumkur constituency. But he lost the polls in 2019.

Congress’s Rajiv Gowda and BK Hariprsad, BJP’s Prabhakar Kore and JD(S)’s Kupendra Reddy’s terms are ending. The Congress currently has 67 MLAs and the JD(S) has 34. A total of 48 votes are required to win a seat. Congress can easily elect one memmber, but cannot send two candidates to the Rajya Sabha. The JD(S) needs 14 more votes. Keeping this numbers game in mind, the Congress has pitched the idea of backing Gowda.

HD Deve Gowda has won 13 direct elections since 1962. That year he entered the Karnataka assembly as an independent MLA from Holenarasipura constituency. He was elected from the same seat to the assembly for six consecutive terms from 1962 to 1989. Since contesting through 'backdoor' is against Gowda’s policy, he is refusing to enter the Rajya Sabha elections.

However, his son HD Kumaraswamy and other JD(S) leaders have reportedly suggested to him to take up the Congress’s offer. According to them, it will boost the JD(S) cadre and the party at the national level.

While Gowda is yet to decide, former opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who lost to Umesh Jadhav from the Gulbarga Lok Sabha constituency, looks all set to come back to national politics. Jadhav had left the Congress and joined the BJP months before the 2019 general elections, blaming Mallikarjun Kharge and his son Priyank.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had openly said in Parliament that the BJP will defeat Kharge in the elections. The party succeeded by fielding Umesh Jadhav against the Congress veteran.

Now Kharge is aiming to start his second innings through the Rajya Sabha and the party high command too wants to field him. Kharge is known to be a staunch Congressman and is close to the party's top leadership.

Sonia Gandhi still has a good rapport with all the allies of the UPA and wants Gowda in the Rajya Sabha because he can take on the BJP. At the same time, Kharge too is a strong orator the Congress can always rely upon.

According to sources, Sonia’s decision has left former chief minister Siddaramaiah and his associates in a spot of bother. Siddaramaiah is reportedly completely against the idea of sending Gowda to the Rajya Sabha. Sources say, he told the high command that Gowda and family always use the Congress to gain power and abuse them in public later.

After failing to get the majority mark in the 2018 Karnataka assembly elections, Siddaramaiah had to keep quite when the Congress supported the JD(S) to form the government. He never wanted to back HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy. However, the high command decided to keep the BJP out of power and, hence, sidelined Siddaramaiah and supported Kumaraswamy. When the coalition government collapsed, the Gowdas blamed Siddaramaiah and the Congress openly. Now, Siddaramaiah is using this as an example and trying to convince Sonia Gandhi, sources say.

On the other hand, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief DK Shivakumar is trying to convince Deve Gowda to contest the election. Recently, Shivakumar visited Deve Gowda’s residence to wish him on his 87th birthday. During the visit, he requested Gowda to contest from the Rajya Sabha and promised him support.

Shivakumar is hoping to become the chief minister of Karnataka in the next elections, say sources, and he may need JD(S) support to claim power. This is the reason he has made peace with the Gowdas and is staying close to them. The Congress troubleshooter had an enmity with the Gowdas for decades. But he managed to clean up the wounds while forming the coalition government.

With inputs from Chidanand Patel