The alleged sexual exploitation scandal involving Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leaders Prajwal and his father, H. D. Revanna has raised questions about the party’s survival. The Janata Dal-Secular, was founded by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, but now the disgrace accompanying the allegations of sexual exploitation, levied against his son and grandson, has done irreparable damage to the party. Its supporters are now feeling embarrassed, angry and frustrated.

Meanwhile, H. D. Kumaraswamy, former CM and current D-S chief, has distanced himself from his brother Revanna, and nephew, Prajwal. Kumaraswamy had recently said that the matter “involved the Revannas and the Kumaraswamy and Deve Gowda families were separate.”

Now Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil, has claimed, “ I have nothing to do with Hassan. I hardly set foot there and have no contact with the Hassan MP.” He even avoided using Prajwal’s name.

This, even as his uncle, Revanna is in the custody of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the state government to probe allegations of sexual harassment against him and his son, Prajwal. Obviously, this will be a long drawn exercise.

Admittedly, the developments are worrying former PM Deve Gowda. The political future of his son Revanna and grandson Prajwal, and the fate of the party that he has led with some pride.

But the Hassan scandal hit the headlines only recently. Much before that many in the JD-S had questioned Gowda and Kumaraswamy’s decision to join hands with the BJP and be a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Senior leader of the party, C. M. Ibrahim, was reportedly furious on learning about the arrangement. Apparently, the father–son duo had not consulted other JD-S leaders before aligning with the BJP.

Gowda had moved fast to expel the dissenters from the party last December. According to him, Ibrahim and C.K. Nanu from Kerala were being expelled for anti-party activities. “These leaders had shown the audacity to conduct an alternative meeting even when the National President is alive,” Gowda had said while announcing the arrangement with the BJP.

Talking about the alliance, a JD-S insider told this writer that the party had little choice. It is learnt that Gowda was shocked by its performance in the 2023 Assembly polls, where only 19 of its candidates won.

In the normal course, he would have loved to tie up with the I.N.D.I.A Bloc for the 2024 polls, the insider claimed adding that Gowda did not seem to have gotten much encouragement from there.

Gowda had told his party’s executive committee that “when the I.N.D.I.A bloc meeting was held, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar called me up. But they (I.N.D.I.A) had put forth certain conditions and kept JD-S away. After that, we allied with the BJP in the interest of our party.”

Despite Gowda’s explanation, many JD-S cadres and leaders remained apprehensive about the party’s new alliance, which had also led to several Muslim supporters moving away from it.

Meanwhile, even though in the on-going Parliamentary polls, the party got to contest from three seats in Karnataka: Hassan, Mandya and Kolar, its leaders remained unhappy as they wanted to fight from five constituencies. As a compromise, the BJP agreed to give a ticket to Gowda’s son-in-law Dr C. Manjunath, as its candidate from Bengaluru Rural.

The alliance was worked out with two specific aims. While the JD-S believed that the so-called Modi wave would help it in re-establishing the party in Karnataka, the BJP was keen to take advantage of the Vokkaliga support that the Gowda family enjoys. The results of this strategy would, however, be evident once the poll results are announced on June 4.

Hassan Sex Scandal Will Haunt Alliance

Meanwhile, the alliance parties have been hit by the Hassan scandal. Both are finding it difficult to defend themselves against arguments that they could not have been unaware of the sex tapes. More so, as Prajwal had got a court injunction a few years ago ensuring that the videos were not made public.

Even the most ardent supporters of the JD-S and Deve Gowda, are finding it difficult to come to terms with the recent developments. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that many cadres have already decided to move away either to the BJP or the Congress.

In fact, speculation is already rife that ,irrespective of the SIT probe, a section of the 19 JD-S MLAs is already busy sounding the Congress. This is something that Kumaraswamy is not unaware of.

In this context, Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s statement adds importance to the ensuing development. More so, his point that “JD-S workers felt led down by the scandal.” Therefore, he and his father would soon visit Hassan “to boost their morale.”

Alongside, R. Ashok, senior BJP leader, added that in the event Prajwal wins the Hassan seat from where he contested, “the NDA will take action against him.” At the same time, he claimed that “Siddaramaiah played a major role in Prajwal’s victory from the constituency in 2019.”

The reference obviously to the coalition government that the JD-S and Congress were running in Karnataka at that time.

Explanations apart, the fact remains that the party cadres who were earlier rattled with Gowda’s decision to join hands with the BJP, have been further shocked by the Hassan tapes. “We are unable to understand what is happening,” a keen supporter of Deve Gowda said. His sentiments were echoed by several others, indicating that the JD-S may find it difficult to survive in the coming days.

Especially, in the event of a poor performance in these polls, the writing could well be on the wall. This is because a poor performance now, may also see it losing its sway over its Vokkaliga support base.

Over 2.6 crore voters will exercise their franchise on May 7

The second phase of polling in the state,scheduled for May 7, will see nearly 2.6 crore voters exercising their franchise, through 28, 269 polling booths. They will choose 227 candidates for the 14 constituencies that are going to the polls in North Karnataka, parts of Malnad and Central Karnataka.

Incidentally, the state is witnessing two former CMsm Basavaraj Bommai and Jagdish Shettar, trying their luck from Haveri and Belgaum, respectively. Shettar, who had deserted the BJP during the 2023 Assembly polls, failed to win his Assembly seat, even after getting a Congress ticket. If he loses the Parliamentary polls it could spell the end of his political career.

Bommai, meanwhile, is fighting the Lok Sabha polls even though he did manage to retain his Assembly seat in 2023. It is another matter that he could not lead the BJP to a win.