Speculations rife over Cong-JD(S) coming together once again for RS polls

Bengaluru, June 3 (PTI) Speculations are rife in Karnataka's political circles about coming together of former alliance partners Congress and JD(S) for elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from the state that will be held on June 19.

Four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka, represented by Rajeev Gowda and B K Hariprasad of Congress, Prabhakar Kore of BJP and D Kupendra Reddy of JD(S) will fall vacant on June 25 with their retirement and polls have been scheduled for these seats on June 19.

With 117 members (including Speaker), the BJP can ensure victory in two of the four seats, while Congress, with 68 MLAs, can win one seat.

With a minimum of 44 votes required for candidates to win, no party can independently win the fourth seat.

Speculations are rife that Congress and JD(S), which had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in an alliance and faced a rout, and eventually parted ways leading to the fall of the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government, may come together for the fourth seat.

According to top party sources, the Congress that is likely to field veteran party leader and former union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge as candidate for the seat it can easily win, is mulling supporting JD(S) if party supremo and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is fielded.

The JD(S), which has 34 seats in the assembly, is not in a position to win a seat in the Rajya Sabha on its own and will need Congress' support for this.

Parties are yet to finalise the list of candidates. The last date for filing of nominations is June 9.

Sources said talks are on within the Congress over supporting Gowda and feelers have been sent to JD(S) in this regard, with a condition that the regional party support it in the elections to seven seats of the Legislative Council from the Assembly, slated later this month.

Aimed at consolidating his position as a Vokkaliga leader, state Congress President D K Shivakumar is said to be keen on supporting Gowda, a veteran from the community that has a large presence in the southern parts of the state.

Kharge seems to be front runner for the seat it can win, though there are several aspirants from the Congress,including former Union Minister Veerappa Moily and K H Muniyappa, Muddahanume Gowda (who gave up Tumkur seat for Gowda as coalition's joint candidate), also those retiring.

Kharge, a nine-time MLA and two-term MP, who had served as Congress floor leader in the previous Lok Sabha, faced his first electoral loss in his political life spanning several decades against BJP's Umesh Jadhav in Gulbarga in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Gowda was defeated in Tumkur constituency after he chose to contest from the seat, vacating Hassan-his home turf, in favour of his grandson Prajwal Revanna (a current MP).

According to some BJP leaders, the party that easily wins over two seats is unlikely to field a candidate or support an independent against Gowda if he contests.

However no final decision has been taken in this regard, they said.

Lobbying is said to have intensified within the ruling BJP for the RS ticket.

While Prabhakar Kore is looking for another term, names of former Union Minister Ananth Kumar's wife Tejaswini and party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Muralidhar Rao are also doing the rounds.

Umesh Katti, an eight-time MLA, who has been sulking for not being made minister, is also making frantic efforts for his brother Ramesh Katti to be chosen for the RS seat, and had held a meeting with a section of BJP legislators from north Karnataka that set alarm bells ringing in the ruling party.

Similar lobbying is also said to have intensified for elections to seven seats of the Legislative Council from the assembly, out of which BJP can win four easily, Congress two and JD(S) one.

Congress is likely to seek the support of JD(S) for the third seat by not fielding a candidate in return to supporting Deve Gowda's election to the Rajya Sabha, sources said.

Meanwhile, amid speculations about the possibilities of the former alliance partners joining hands and dissidence within the ruling party, BJP leader and Revenue Minister R Ashoka, noting that Congress was responsible for Gowda stepping down as PM, made cryptic comments about the party being open to support from the JD(S) for development.

'Congress is a party with a culture of sham. They had earlier in a way cheated JD(S). It was Congress that made Deve Gowda step down as Prime Minister.

JD(S) is aware about Congress...we (BJP) too had formed a government with JD(S) once. We are focused on development.

Whoever supports development, if it is JD(S) also, we are fine,' he said. PTI KSU APR RAVINDRANATH APR RAVINDRANATH