What explains the JD(S)-BJP alliance in Karnataka
HD Kumaraswamy’s sensitive health, Deve Gowda’s age factor, and the family feud in the party could have driven the decision to ally with the BJP. File photo

What explains the JD(S)-BJP alliance in Karnataka

While JD(S) is facing an existential crisis, BJP, a divided house in the state, wants to thwart Congress' chances in LS polls

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BS Yediyurappa, BJP’s patriarch and member of the party's parliamentary board, quelled all speculation when he formally confirmed a tie-up with The Janata Dal (Secular) to fight the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. On Sunday (September 10), the JD(S) made its alliance with the BJP official at a party workers’ meeting. The meeting was attended by JD(S) chief and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

Gowda told reporters Kumaraswamy will hold talks with the BJP's central leaders over the next few days to arrive at a seat-sharing arrangement. He added that allying with the BJP is “essential” to “save” the regional party in Karnataka.

This political development is being viewed as an attempt to thwart the efforts of the ruling Congress in Karnataka to win more Lok Sabha seats. The Congress’ goal, meanwhile, is to bag at least 20 of 28 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. It is leaving no stone unturned to achieve this success. “Our idea is to send 20 MPs from Karnataka to strengthen the hands of Rahul Gandhi”, a senior Congress leader has said.

Gowda’s U-turn

Political observers say that this alliance seems to point at JD(S)’s vulnerability after its recent drubbing in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls. Deve Gowda, who had ruled out the possibility of his party allying with national parties in an exclusive interview with The Federal in June, seems to have done a complete U-turn, after meeting BJP’s top leaders Amit Shah and JP Nadda on September 5. Gowda reportedly spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the phone during his meeting with Amit Shah.

Notably, Deve Gowda had been upset with the BJP just three months ago, because of its campaign against the JD(S) in the Assembly polls. At that time, Gowda had said that “party leaders are not interested in an alliance with any national party”. But, it appears, the political situation has forced him to change his stance and sacrifice the secular values that he had cherished in the 60 years of his political life.

Tie-up after 15-years

The BJP and JD(S), whose alliance in 2006 had ended on a bitter note, are teaming up again after a gap of 15 years. However, political analysts believe that political circumstances and ground realities have driven both parties to join hands. Both BJP and JD(S) are now in a vulnerable position and an alliance between them seems to be the only option left for them.

Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy endorsed Yediyurappa’s statement on Saturday. He profusely thanked Yediyurappa saying that he will remain indebted to the BJP leader.

Demand is for 5 seats, BJP insists on 4

Sources in JD(S) claim that the party has insisted on contesting in five Lok Sabha seats, including Hassan, Mandya, Tumakuru, Chikkaballapura and Kolar. But, Yediyurappa, has declared that JD(S) will contest in four seats, as Mandya, has been earmarked for actor-turned-politician Sumalatha, sitting Mandya MP and she is an Independent candidate supported by the BJP.

While the BJP cadre and leaders are engaged in infighting, in the absence of an able leadership, BJP leaders are unsure about keeping their flock together. BJP and JD(S) leaders, who were earlier opposed to the alliance, are now half-heartedly consenting to the decision taken by their party's high command.

For JD(S), an alliance with the BJP is the last resort, as it is facing an existential crisis and most leaders and workers have reconciled to the situation. State BJP leaders too are not going to go against their high command in Delhi, as their political future hinges on Modi’s charisma.

Alliance restricted to Lok Sabha polls

Even as JD(S) core committee chairman, G T Deve Gowda, backed party supremo Deve Gowda’s decision as being good for the party's political existence, according to the party's internal sources, workers have appealed to their party leaders to limit the scope of alliance to the Lok Sabha polls.

Some legislators, however, are still not prepared to go with BJP. Sharana Gouda Kundakura MLA from Gurmitkal Assembly constituency publicly has expressed his view against the alliance.

Another senior leader, who spoke to The Federal on condition of anonymity, said: "JD(S) top leaders want this alliance due to Kumaraswamy’s sensitive health, Deve Gowda’s ageing factor, the family feud in the party, and the issue over Karnataka High Court reserving its order on the disqualification of Hassan MP Prajwal Revanna. It is a question of the existence of both the party and Gowda family.”

Rout in Vokkaliga heartland

Two-thirds of JD(S) candidates losing their deposits in recent Assembly polls is also a major cause of concern for the regional party. After all, the Vokkaliga community, which the party was hitherto banking on, is slowly distancing itself from the party, following the emergence of deputy chief minister and Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar.

About 66 per cent of the 138 of the 209 JD(S) candidates who contested have lost their deposits in the recent Assembly polls. It is significant that the JD(S) stronghold - the Old Mysuru region has 67 seats, where the regional party got pushed to the second position. Most of the 19 seats JD(S) won are from the Vokkaliga heartland.

Even Kumaraswamy’s Pancharathna Ratha Yatra failed to yield the expected results. This is another key reason that forced JD(S) to align with BJP, according to political observers.

Transfer of vote share

Yet, even as the BJP-JD(S) alliance looks good on paper, political observers say that the transfer of votes for this alliance in the Lok Sabha polls looks difficult. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP fought a united Congress-JD(S) (19-9 seats) combine and still won 25 seats out of 28 in the state and walked off with a 52 per cent vote share. In 2014, BJP fought JD (S) and Congress recording a vote share of 45 per cent, as against Congress bagging 41 per cent and JD(S) only 9 per cent.

This time, however, the two parties BJP and JD(S) can win a majority of votes only if the votes are transferred from one party to another. But, the 2019 Congress-JD(S) experiment points out that vote transfer is not as easy as it is perceived to be.

Yet, Yediyurappa is confident and claims that this alliance is going to help them bag 25 to 26 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. Only time will tell the outcome of this alliance strongly based on vulnerability and political survival.

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