- Congress wants to give JDS less than 10 seats
- It is likely to face stiff resistance
- HD Devegowda has indicated that his party was ready to be flexible
The ruling allies in Karnataka, the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy, met today to work out the sharing of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. While no clear decisions were arrived at, both partners insisted that the negotiations were progressing well. The coalition partners have made it clear that they will contest the election together and the biggest challenge now is to decide to arrive at the numbers and which party gets which seat.
Mr Kumaraswamy wants 12 of Karnataka's 28 seats -- proportional to the seats won by the two parties in last year's assembly election in the state. The Congress, however, wants to give it less than 10 seats.
Mr Kumaraswamy's father, HD Deve Gowda has assured that his party would not be rigid about its demand. "By loosening our stand a bit... a final decision should be arrived at. You (Congress) should also have that mentality... we will come to a decision cordially," the former Prime Minister has said.
The negotiations have ramifications beyond the state.
Ahead of the coming Lok Sabha elections, the Karnataka coalition is being seen as an indicator of how well the Congress can work with smaller regional parties. It could also be an indication of the possibility of success for the entire opposition Grand Alliance in its bid to topple the BJP at the Centre. The BJP would pounce on the failure of the Karnataka coalition as an example of a lack of opposition unity.
After the two-hour meeting attended by the Chief Minister, his deputy G Parameshwara, state Congress chief KC Venugopal and Congress Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah, senior JD(S) leader Danish Ali said there was "nothing wrong" in any party demanding maximum seats. "But give and take will be there. The main motive is to win maximum seats for the alliance," he added.
The benchmark, he said, would be the two-thirds and one third formula the alliance is following for cabinet formation, nominations or board corporations. The final decision, however, would be taken by party patriarch Mr Devegowda and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress's K C Venugopal, said: "I think within 4-5 days we will sort it out. They have every right to ask for 12 seats. But a give and take attitude will be there from both sides".
The other tricky issue is expected to be the Mandya Lok Sabha seat, a Vokkaliga-dominated seat which is a stronghold of the JD(S).
The seat had fallen vacant after JD(S) lawmaker CS Puttaraju got elected to the Karnataka Assembly in the polls held in May. But in the polls held late last year, party candidate KR Shivaramegowda won. This time, the JD(S) wants to field Mr Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Gowda from the seat. But Sumalathaa, the wife of the late superstar Ambareesh, who was with the Congress, wants to contest the seat.
"We won in 2009, 2014 by-election. There is no point in discussing that seat will go to other side," Damish Ali said. "The JDS will have that seat and the most popular candidate will be the candidate there. (Nikhil) is an emerging young star."