Bengaluru: Has former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda bitten more than he can chew? It appears to be the case in Karnataka where his Janata Dal (Secular) has developed cold feet after realising it has no candidates to put up from its share of eight seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The JD(S), which runs a coalition government with the Congress in Karnataka, had initially demanded 12 of the 28 Lok Sabha. The demand had stunned the state Congress leaders, especially since the Gowda clan is an actual force in only six districts in the old Mysore region.

After deliberations, Congress President Rahul Gandhi ceded eight seats to the JD(S) and the state unit reluctantly agreed to honour the deal.

While getting the seats was easy, the Gowdas now face a crisis. The sub-regional party has no candidates and no organisational structure in five of the eight seats. With the last date to file nominations around the corner, Gowda’s party has approached the Congress and requested it to “loan” candidates to fight on the JD(S) symbol.
Not wanting to gift these seats to the BJP, the Congress appears to have agreed to the proposal.

Bengaluru North, Udupi-Chikmagalur and Uttara Kannada are currently with the BJP, and the JD(S) will field Congress candidates from there.

“The JD(S) is greedy and over-ambitious. They wanted eight seats just to send out a message to their critics that it is a pan-Karnataka political party,” said an unidentified senior state Congress leader. “Now, they are in trouble. Left with no options, they have rushed to the Congress for candidates.”

Karnataka Congress leader BL Shankar is likely to be the JD(S) candidate from Bengaluru North. The speculation has not gone down well with local Congress leaders – the party has five MLAs here as against two from the JD(S) and one from the BJP.

Shankar, once Gowda’s blue-eyed boy, confirmed such a proposal is in the pipeline.

In Udupi-Chikmagalur, the JD(S) is likely to field former Congress minister Pramod Madhvaraj on its symbol. He had lost the recent Assembly elections from Udupi by a small margin.

In Uttara Kannada, the JD(S) is reportedly eyeing Prashant Deshpande or Nivedith Alva to contest on its symbol. Prashant Deshpande is the son of Revenue Minister RV Deshpande while Nivedith Alva is the son of senior Congress leader Margaret Alva.

Even in Bijapur or Vijayapura seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes, the JD(S) is struggling to identify a good candidate since it is a Congress stronghold.

In Shimoga, the JD(S) has fielded former MLA Madhu Bangarappa as a coalition candidate. He had lost the recent Lok Sabha bye-election to state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappas son BY Raghavendra by a margin of 52,000 votes.

The JD(S) faces an additional issue – the party symbol. Voters outside the old Mysore region are unfamiliar with the symbol and the Congress fears this confusion may lead to even hard-core supporters not voting for the coalition candidates.

Local Congress leaders feel the symbol may pose a problem. “By aligning with the JD(S) just to prevent the BJP from coming to power, the Congress seems to have caused a huge damage to itself in the long run,” said a senior Congress leader. “Except three seats, the BJP is clearly ahead in the remaining five. Even before the nominations, we have lost the game.”