The disintegration of the Janata Parivar, an exodus of leaders and negative publicity have resulted in JD(S) losing its base in North Karnataka.
Once a strong party that gave a stiff competition to national parties, it is now struggling for its existence.
Taking advantage of the dwindling base of the JD(S), the saffron party surged into the region and consolidated its position.
In the 1991 Lok Sabha polls, JD(S) won a sizeable number of seats in this region — Belgaum, Chikkodi and Bagalkot — due to strong leaders and cadre at the grass-root level.
“The split in the Janata Parivar paved the way for the creation of the Janata Dal (Secular) and Janata Dal (United). Many leaders quit the JD and joined either Congress or BJP. That was the beginning of the downfall of JD(S) in our region. Revival of the erstwhile Janata Parivar is the only way to fight Congress and BJP,” said MLC and former minister Basavaraj Horatti.
According to Horatti, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy made honest efforts to strengthen the party in 2003 and 2008 by fielding good candidates and supporting them financially to take on the opposition.
Unfortunately, candidates got into ‘match fixing’ with other candidates and did not make any efforts to win elections. Naturally, both Gowda and Kumaraswamy lost interest in the North-Karnataka region.
Even though many leaders have quit the JD(S), it still has a strong base that needs to be reinvented.
“The need of the hour is to make people feel that the party is not restricted to the Old Mysore region,” Horatti said.
Although Kumaraswamy tried to improve the party’s prospects by touring the region extensively ahead of the 2013 Assembly elections, it failed to have any impact.
Although Kumaraswamy as chief minister released adequate funds for several projects, the BJP always portrayed Gowda as being anti-north Karnataka as he reportedly opposed setting up of the headquarters of the railway zone in Hubli, Horatti said.
The JD(S) failed to highlight the contributions made by Gowda, which include release of `100 crore for the Hubli railway workshop and sanctioning funds to other irrigation projects of North-Karnataka region as PM, he said.
The total vote share of JD(S) in the region was around 34.9 per cent in the 1996 Lok Sabha polls. But in 1999, it plummeted to 10.85 per cent and rose to 20.45 per cent in 2004. But it again declined to 13.58 per cent in the 2009 polls. It was an open secret that the party struggled hard to find winnable candidates in the seven Lok Sabha seats of the region.
It has not fielded a candidate for the Koppal seat. The candidate for Uttara Kannada seat, Shivanand Naik, withdrew his nomination papers in the last minute citing ‘financial’ constraints to contest the polls.
Efforts to Rebuild Party
Kumaraswamy said efforts are on to rebuild the party base in the region by infusing young blood.
“It is true that many leaders who enjoyed power have now joined other parties. Luckily, party workers are still with us. I tried my best to improve our party in the last Assembly elections but it did not yield the desired results. We need to identify young leaders and give them full support to strengthen the party. This process will be started after the April 17 elections,” the former chief minister said.
North Karnataka comprises Haveri, Gadag, Dharwad, Belgaum, Uttara Kannada, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts.