The Lok Sabha elections in the state on Thursday will be an acid test for the Janata Dal (Secular). The united Janata Parivar had won 16 of the total 28 constituencies in Karnataka, but after the split in 1997-98, the JD(S) led by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda managed to win just three seats in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls.
The other faction of Janata Dal, called Lok Shakti, headed by Ramakrishna Hegde, former chief minister and bete noire of Gowda, won three seats. Later, the Lok Shakti merged with Janata Dal (United). In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the JD(S) got a drubbing and did not win even a single seat.
Its star leader, H D Deve Gowda, was humbled in the Vokkaliga-dominated Hassan constituency. Since then, the strength of JD(S) has been dwindling due to the exodus of many leaders from the party. While some joined the BJP, others found place in the Congress.
In the 2004 polls, JD(S) won two seats but its tally improved to three in the 2009 elections. However, JD(S) was defeated by Congress in the bypolls held in 2013 due to the resignation of two JD(S) MPs - N Cheluvaraya Swamy from Mandya and H D Kumaraswamy from Bangalore Rural following their election to the Assembly.
The 2014 Lok Sabha polls is a decisive one for the JD(S) as it will decide its future. Both the national parties, Congress and BJP, have already pushed JD(S) into a corner.
Barring one or two pre-poll surveys, most have predicted the victory of JD(S) in just two or three constituencies. Although both Gowda and Kumaraswamy repeatedly said they will field ‘winnable’ candidates in all the 28 constituencies, they ended up fielding candidates in only 24 constituencies.
The candidates picked by the party leaders are mostly novices. Dr Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst, said: “JD(S) is always branded as a regional party at least in parliamentary polls. There is lack of coordination between Gowda and Kumaraswamy on all party matters. There is no support to the candidates contesting in north Karnataka and no big leaders have campaigned.
Kumaraswamy made efforts to revive the party in N-K region but that did not work. Kumaraswamy lost interest after he was stripped of state party president post due to defeat of the JD(S) in the bypolls to Mandya and Bangalore Rural constituencies, Dr Harish said.
He observed that Vokkaliga support for Gowda has declined and he is no longer considered their champion. JD(S) leaders lack innovative ideas to attract youths, and party’s existence is in peril if serious efforts are not made to rejuvenate it, he said. When contacted, Kumaraswamy said the outcome of Lok Sabha elections was very important for his party. Leaders have worked hard in this elections. “We are optimistic that voters will vote for our party,” he said.