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|August 26, 1999||
JDU-BJP cracking under internal strains
George Iype in Bangalore
Over a month after they merged to fight the Congress in Karnataka, the Janata Dal faction led by Chief Minister J H Patel and the Lok Shakti headed by Commerce Minister Ramakrishna Hegde are in disarray.
The merger has not brought about unity, but utter confusion in their new outfit, the Janata Dal United, since the leaders fight among themselves instead of fighting the Congress.
Though similar confusion rules in the Congress, with many rebel candidates having come in to fight the official candidates, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party that has probably benefited from the political shake-up in Karnataka.
Despite the initial difficulties in forging an alliance with the ruling Patel group, the BJP has bagged the lion's share of the seats, both for the assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Under the poll agreement, the BJP contests 129 assembly seats, leaving 95 seats to the JDU. Of the 28 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is contesting in 18, while the Lok Shakti and the Patel group are sharing the remaining 10.
But many Lok Shakti and Janata Dal leaders who were members of the dissolved assembly have lost their seats due to the alliance with the BJP. Thus, as the campaigning heats up, more and more leaders are resigning and rebel candidates coming up across Karnataka.
Leaders from the Patel group are unhappy that the BJP has snatched a few prestigious assembly seats from them, leaving some ministers and MLAs in the lurch. These seats include Athani, the constituency held by Kannada and Leeladevi R Prasad, till recently culture minister, and Raichur from where M S Patil, urban development minister in the dissolved assembly, won. In Kolar parliamentary constituency, the BJP nominated a defector, Mangamma Muniswamy. The Patel group wanted to field Balaji Channaiah, while the Lok Shakti was pressing for its Madan Mallu.
"The merger of the Lok Shakti with the JDU, brought about by Hegde, has deeply embarrassed us. It is tragic that Hegde failed to understand our anguish when he went through the back door to embrace Patel," B J Puttaswamy, a Hegde associate and former member of the legislative council, told rediff.com.
Ever since Patel and Hegde signed a friendship pact, Puttaswamy, a prominent leader of the backward classes along with his Lok Shakti supporters have been staging dharnas every day before Hegde's Bangalore residence.
"We worked hard and contributed a lot in building the Lok Shakti from scratch. But Hegde has fooled us," he said.
Leaders like Puttaswamy and Jivijaya, a Lok Shakti leader and a close Hegde associate from Kodagu, accuse Hegde of "cheating his party workers", most of whom are now contesting as independents, threatening to endanger the polls prospects of the JDU-BJP in Karnataka.
Similarly, the rank and file in Patel's Janata Dal group appear to be uncertain what to do after deal was made. Patel's followers say there was no reason to allocate assembly seats to Lok Shakti since the party has no strength to speak of in the state assembly.
The Election Commission's decision to put off polls in Malleswaram, Basavangudi, Gandhinagar and Rajajinagar assembly constituencies has further annoyed candidates. Thus, on the eve of the elections, the JDU-BJP alliance appears to be pretty fragile.
"There is utter lack of co-ordination and understanding between the BJP and the JDU. We are fighting elections by fighting among ourselves. But this infighting will only increase after the elections," a BJP leader said.
Already many believe that soon after the elections, there will be a no-holds barred fight between the Lok Shakti, the Janata Dal and the BJP if they win the elections. For, the JDU and the BJP have put on hold the contentious issue of who should be the chief minister till the elections are over.
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