KARNATAKA

Janata Dal factions to focus on unity

Bangalore Dec. 7. The various factions of the erstwhile Janata Dal in the State are once again preparing for the merger exercise. If the efforts fail, they hope to arrive at an understanding to face the coming Legislative Assembly elections as a united front. The merger discussions got bogged down nearly six months ago and all the factions believed that it was difficult to sort out the differences among the senior leaders.

The results of the recent Legislative Council elections and the debacle of the Congress in the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan have come as a shock to the three factions of the Janata Dal in the State. After a few days of introspection and analysis of the election results, the All-India Progressive Janata Dal, the Janata Dal (Secular), and the Janata Party are again believed to be pushing forward the merger theory. They feel that if each of the factions field candidates, it will result in a division of votes and help the Congress.

Sources say that the leaders have realised the importance of unity. However, they are yet to decide on whether to merge their parties or finalise an understanding for the coming elections. The JD(S) headed by the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, and the AIPJD won two seats each in the Legislative Council elections. The Janata Party, which has been rejuvenated, is yet to contest an election. The leaders are aware that a united Janata Parivar would have done well in most constituencies, sources say.

The President of the AIPJD State unit, K.N. Nage Gowda, says that if a merger is not impossible, the three parties could work on a long-term understanding. "The three parties could forge a Karnataka Democratic Alliance, on the lines of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, and finalise a common minimum programme. The only way out is to go before the people as a united front. After discussions with the party leaders, the AIPJD will commence this exercise with the leaders of the Janata Party and the JD(S)," he adds.

The Vice-President and spokesman of the Janata Party, Pradeep Kumar Reddy, feels this is last chance for the Janata Dal factions to come together. If they do not, they will be routed in the Assembly elections, he says. "The Janata Party, however, has a better chance since the people are aware of the personal background of Vijay Mallya (Working President of the party and MP), who is in politics not to make money but to fight corruption."

Mr. Reddy says the Janata Dal groups have to learn to abide by the demand of party workers and voters. If it is difficult to unite the Janata Parivar, the parties should reach an understanding. "The leaders have to give up their personal agenda and aim at collective leadership. Some of the top leaders have to retire and serve as advisers. Should that happen, the second-line leaders will finalise the merger at the earliest. The Janata Party is also keen on merger," he adds.

The former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, who is undergoing treatment at an Ayurvedic centre near Hoskote, says he will assign the responsibility of talking to likeminded political parties to his party's State unit President, Siddaramaiah, and the other party leaders, P.G.R. Sindhia and M.P. Prakash. "My primary aim is to strengthen the Janata Dal (S) and improve the coordination at all levels."

Barring Mysore district where the Janata Dal (S) has a strong presence in the zilla panchayat and several taluk and gram panchayats, the Congress has good support in all other rural areas.

In the recent Legislative Council elections, the JD(S) lost by a narrow margin in at least five constituencies. The party feels that lack of coordination led to the defeat.

If the Janata Parivar was united, it could have defeated the Congress. In Kodagu, Arun Machaiah, an independent who enjoyed the support of the JD(S) and the AIPJD, defeated the Congress nominee, T. John.

The AIPJD's Basavaraj Bommai and B.T. Channabasappa won the Dharwad and Chitradurga seats, respectively, though the party has very little presence in the panchayats in the districts.

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