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Congress top brass not sure of Karnataka win? View spreads, ex-PM Deve Gowda to back BJP if it's hung assembly

Deve Gowda with Siddaramaiah
By Our Representative
Despite the hype created by Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah that the Congress would surely romp back to power in the forthcoming state assembly polls scheduled for mid-May, there appear to uncertainty within at the very top in the grand old party, if an article published in a media outfit directly controlled by party chief Rahul Gandhi is any indication.
Written by KS Dakshina Murthy, visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bengaluru, the article, written amidst "disappointed ticket-seekers" shedding tears and "pugnacious politicians" raising their voices as the assembly elections approach, insists, there are some "obvious questions that dodge definitive answers" on whether the state will see "single party rule or a coalition."
Murthy quotes former United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a totally different context, to sum up the situation. Rumsfeld said, if there are "things we know that we know", "there are things that we know we don't know", and, also, "there are things we don't know we don't know."
Given this framework, says Murthy, if there is just one "know" there are at least two "know unknowns" that may play a significant role in the eventual outcome. One of these is the Janata Dal (Secular) factor, while the other is the Lingayat issue.
Murthy, in his article in the online edition of "The National Herald", the newspaper founded by Jawaharlal Nehru, and currently controlled by the Gandhi family which holds the sway on the Congress, does not rule out the possibility of a hung assembly, "where the JD(S) can be the decider between being in government or the Opposition, the situation can turn tricky for the Congress and the BJP."
Murthy surprisingly underlines, "As it stands, the JD(S) has not clearly spelt out its position and is not likely to do so. The cards are however stacked in favour of it supporting BJP, in the event of a hung assembly. This prima facie reason is because the JD(S) patriarch, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, has a sour relationship with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah."
According to Murthy, "Deve Gowda and Siddaramaiah go back a long way, with the former prime minister mentoring the chief minister in the early days of his career. With Gowda promoting his own son HD Kumaraswamy over Siddaramaiah, the relationship did not last. Siddaramaiah quit the JD(S) and joined the Congress in 2006. Not only did he cock a snook at Deve Gowda, he went on to become the chief minister."
In fact, says Murthy, "A few weeks ago the JD(S) leadership met senior Congress politicians and said the party would support it, but on the condition that Siddaramaiah is replaced by someone else. Since then, the Congress has all but taken on the JD(S), with party president Rahul Gandhi calling it JD (Sangh Parivar) and the ‘B’ team of the BJP."
The other “know unknown” is the Lingayat factor, says Murthy. "No party is sure which way the Lingayat vote will go, whether it will split or whether it will make no difference. Traditionally, the Lingayat vote was with the Congress. It then shifted to the erstwhile Janata Dal’s late leader Ramakrishna Hegde, who transferred it to the BJP during their alliance in 1999."
He continues, "In the 2004 and 2008 elections, the Lingayat vote was perceived to have gone en masse to the BJP, enabling its good showing. By recommending minority religion status to the Lingayats, a long-standing demand of the community, Siddaramaiah has calculated that it would benefit the Congress on the assumption that a large section of the community will favour his party."
However, Murthy underlines, "Since the state government’s recommendation was sent to the Centre, strangely not much is being spoken about the issue by both the Congress and the BJP."
According to Murthy, "While the Congress is wary of a blowback against its decision among sections of the community, the BJP is caught in a fix on how to respond to the decision. It can neither support nor oppose it, as either will result in flight of votes to the Congress. It has taken refuge under the excuse that it cannot take a decision as the model code of conduct is in place for the elections."

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