Smarting under a series of poll debacles, including the latest in the Sira bypolls, the Janata Dal (Secular) could be looking into changing strategies for its survival. Insiders say calls might grow louder within the party to strengthen the second-rung leadership and to restrict the influence of the family of party patriarch H.D. Deve Gowda in political affairs, besides making the party more organised.
The defeat in Sira, according to sources, has not gone down well in the Gowda clan as the entire family, including the octogenarian leader, was on the ground during the campaigning.
While Mr. Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy are the undisputed leaders of the party with a large following, Nikhil Kumaraswamy being allowed to address a rally on the last day of the campaign, bypassing several other leaders on the stage, was seen as a move to stifle others. “He is young and has to learn the ropes by being in the backstage. He has a star value as a film actor, but not as a politician. He can wait,” a miffed legislator said.
The serial defeats aside, several legislators — unhappy over being ignored for long or not getting any opportunities when the party was in power — are looking for greener pastures, sparking off concern. A couple of senior legislators kept out of campaigning despite the party’s call. However, the leadership has made it clear that it will not stop those wishing to move out.
There is also the threat of Vokkaliga votes getting divided, with another Vokkaliga leader, D.K. Shivakumar, heading the Congress. In fact, the results and vote shares in Sira and R.R. Nagar recently clearly indicated that a significant chunk of Vokkaliga voters had voted for the BJP. The JD(S) has not made serious attempts to revive its fortunes in North Karnataka either.
“In many constituencies, the party, instead of nurturing the growth of leaders, waits for an outsider to come and contest. How can the party create a base?” a senior leader asked. “The feeling is that new faces should come from outside the family, which will help nurture the second-rung leadership,” he said, adding that these issues would be conveyed to the party leadership.
Structurally, the leader pointed out, a research team has to be set up to understand the pulse of the people on the ground. “We have made wrong choices in the past, but we have the opportunity and time to revive the party. Mr. Gowda is also very keen on having a research team and feels it will help in the party’s revival,” the leader said.