KARNATAKA

Parties playing for high stakes in Mysore district

Laiqh A. Khan

MYSORE: Politics makes for strange bedfellows, they say. That seems to be the case in the Mysore region, where friends in the previous elections have turned bitter foes before the elections to the zilla and taluk panchayats.

The realignment of political forces in the region, particularly in the wake of the former Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's ouster from the Janata Dal (Secular), has come about not only due to the changed political loyalties of the veteran politicians M. Rajasekhara Murthy and V. Srinivas Prasad but also the role the AHINDA movement has played in bringing together Mr. Siddaramaiah and the Congress.

Congress strategy

The Congress has offered to accommodate Mr. Siddaramaiah in its strategy to defeat the JD(S) led by H.D. Deve Gowda. Mr. Siddaramaiah's All-India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD) has entered into a seat-sharing arrangement in many zilla and taluk panchayat constituencies in Mysore, Chamarajanagar and Mandya districts.

The JD(S), on the other hand, has tried to woo fence sitters in other parties, particularly the BJP.

Campaigning for JD(S)

Apart from Mr. Rajasekhara Murthy, who joined the JD(S) from the BJP after resigning from the Rajya Sabha, several political leaders such as the independent MLA for Kollegal, Balraj; the BJP MLA for T. Narsipur, Suneetha Veerappa Gowda; the former T. Narsipur MLA Bharathi Shankar; the former Periyapatna MLA Basavaraj; and BJP leader Sa. Ra. Mahesh have openly identified themselves with the JD(S) in the campaign for the local body elections. The former Union Minister V. Srinivas Prasad, who joined the JD(S) before the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, may have chosen to remain neutral during the elections. But his outbursts against Mr. Deve Gowda and his participation in the AHINDA conventions clearly indicate where his political loyalties lie.

His neutral stance is indirectly aimed at helping the AIPJD, particularly in the Dalit-dominated constituencies of Chamarajanagar and Mysore districts.

Mysore's distinction

Incidentally, Mysore was the only district where the JD(S) came to power in the previous zilla panchayat elections in 2000 when a Congress government led by S.M. Krishna was in the saddle.

Congress leaders in the region are optimistic that they will be able to turn the tables this time on the JD(S).

The stakes are high not only for the Congress, but also for Mr. Siddaramaiah and his friend-turned-foe, G.T. Deve Gowda, who heads the JD(S) in Mysore.