Congress, JD-S seat pact to ‘outsmart’ BJP in Karnataka

Bengaluru: Karnataka’s ruling coalition allies Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) hope to “outsmart” the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by jointly contesting the 28 Lok Sabha seats across the state in April, a party official said.

“With the JD-S and Congress contesting together, there will be no splitting of secular votes in the state. The seat-sharing pact well positions our parties to outsmart the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections,” JD-S spokesman and a former Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Ramesh Babu told IANS.

The vision of the coalition allies was to combine their forces to keep the BJP out of winning the majority seats, he added.

The ruling parties committed to a pre-poll alliance for the ensuing Lok Sabha elections in the state, to be held in two phases on April 18 and 23, with eight seats for the JD-S and 20 for the Congress.

Admitting that JD-S and Congress, which bitterly fought against each other in the May 2018 Assembly elections, had differences in a few constituencies, Babu said the parties were working to strengthen their unity.

“We fought the Assembly elections as rivals, particularly in the old Mysuru region, where both parties have significant strength. So, it is natural for differences to exist. The parties’ leaders are working to resolve the differences right down to the worker level,” the JD-S spokesman said.

The Congress party also believes that if the coalition partners stay united and end their “bickering”, they can “comfortably” win the Lok Sabha elections.

“If the JD-S and Congress stay united, they can project the failures of BJP at the Centre like the issue of unemployment. We can comfortably win the Lok Sabha elections if the parties avoid bickering,” Congress state unit Vice President B.K. Chandrashekar told IANS.

The BJP was far less likely to benefit due to the “charm” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ensuing general elections, the Congress leader said.

“The Modi factor did not work for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan Assembly elections in 2018 either, and it just about saved them in Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017. It is far less likely to work for the BJP in Karnataka during the general elections,” Chandrashekar explained.

The JD-S and Congress leaders expect the Rs 48,000-crore farm loan waiver announced by the coalition government of Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to have a positive impact on the poll outcome.

“Farm loan waiver is a palliative to farmers. If we didn’t waive the loans, the indefinite suffering of farmers will continue,” the Congress leader added.

The BJP, on the other hand, mocked the JD-S and Congress seat-sharing pact as “superficial”.

“The seat-sharing agreement is only on paper and is a superficial one. The two parties fought against each other in the Assembly elections in 2018. Their workers still can’t stand one another and are spewing venom against each other,” BJP state unit spokesman G. Madhusudhan told IANS.

The infighting between the two parties will only help BJP win more votes, he added.

“We are sure to gain more votes due to the positive work that has been done by the Modi government and also from the congenial atmosphere in the country after the recent air strikes against Pakistan in retaliation to the (February 14) Pulwama attack,” the BJP leader asserted.

The “patriotic” atmosphere that prevails after the air strikes would favour the right-wing party across the country, the spokesman assessed.

While the BJP was aiming to win at least 20 of the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies, the coalition parties were together aiming to win in 22 seats.