Karnataka: BJP-JDS plot new caste formula to sweep 2024 LS polls
The bonhomie between BJP and JS(s) is seen as an existentialist need for both as they plan to counter the Congress backward class politics. File photo

Karnataka: BJP-JDS plot new caste formula to sweep 2024 LS polls

The new alliance is the result of initiative taken by two war horses: former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa

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The newfound bonhomie between the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) is perceived as an existentialist need for both as they plan to counter the Congress’ ‘backward class politics’ with a Lingayat-Vokkaliga social engineering strategy.

Considering the changing caste configuration in Karnataka, both the BJP and JD(S), who campaigned against each other in Assembly elections, have buried their differences for the Lok Sabha battle next year.

The new alliance is the result of an initiative taken by two ageing war horses: former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, widely seen as saviours of the Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities.

“It appears the BJP high command is not worried much about the Congress in Karnataka. Corruption, infighting and indiscipline in the state BJP is what is worrisome,” says a senior party leader.

The two parties are coming together 15 years after an earlier power-sharing deal ended on a bitter note.

Renewed friendship

In the changed political circumstances, Deve Gowda, who earlier opposed an alliance with the BJP, now favours it to save the JD(S) from getting decimated.

Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who attacked the BJP and RSS ahead of the May Assembly elections and called the BJP communal, has done a U-turn after suffering a virtual rout in the electoral battle.

It is said that the coming together of JD(S) and BJP will change the social configuration in Karnataka. The alliance could make the Lingayat-leaning BJP more comfortable and powerful.

An analysis of the 2019 Lok Sabha results paints a rosy picture for the new combine. The BJP then fought the Congress-JD(S) pair, secured 52 per cent of the votes and 25 of the 28 seats.

The Congress got 41 percent of the votes and the JD(S) 9 percent. In the new political scenario, the alliance is likely to increase its vote share and gain maximum seats if votes get transferred from the BJP to JD(S) and vice versa.

Lingayats, Vokkaligas

The move is viewed as a consolidation of the dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga votes in the leadership of Yediyurappa and Deve Gowda besides capturing minor share of AHINDA (Minorities, Backward Classes and Dalits) votes -- the political strength of the Congress.

The BJP’s idea to combine social engineering with development misfired in the Assembly polls miserably. After that, the BJP resolved to strike an alliance with the JD(S) as a course correction.

The BJP national leadership kept its Karnataka leaders outside the purview of this alliance deal and depended on Yediyurappa, a member of the Parliamentary Board.

Initially, BJP antagonised Lingayats in Karnataka by sidelining Yediyurappa by forcing him to quit the chief minister’s post. The BJP leadership, especially Narendra Modi, confronted Vokkaligas by attacking Deve Gowda and his party in the Vokkaliga heartland.

The BJP paid the price for these two grave mistakes. Following the poor performance in the old Mysuru region, the state BJP and its national leadership understood that even Modi’s charisma cannot do magic in Karnataka.

Eye on votes

The BJP’s grand strategy of social engineering just prior to the May elections also failed to yield expected results. The government in early this year withdrew reservation benefits for Muslims under the 2B category which accounted for 4 per cent and evenly distributed it to Vokkaliga and Lingayats. But this failed to heal the wounds of Lingayats.

The exit of former chief minister Jagadish Shettar and prominent Lingayat leader Lakshman Sawadi made the Lingayats feel that their community leaders were being sidelined by Brahmin leaders such as BL Santhosh and Prahlad Joshi.

Recent attempts to convince Lingayats that the BJP protects their interests have failed. Statements by Jagadish Shettar, MP Renukacharya and other Lingayat leaders have only increased the perception of a divide between the BJP and Lingayats.

Understanding this, both the BJP and JD(S) have swallowed their pride and sunk their differences to fight the Congress in Karnataka.

Panchamasali challenge

Now, the Panchamasali community -- a prominent Lingayat sub-sect -- is preparing to launch a renewed agitation. The sect wants included in the 2A category, which guarantees a 15 percent quota in government jobs and education.

According to a senior Congress leader, the Panchamasali agitation will be a real challenge for the ruling Congress in the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s decision to accept a caste census has created ripples in BJP circles and forced it to soften its stand towards the JD(S). In the next few months, the BJP and JD(S) will counter the backward classes politics of Siddaramaiah by projecting Lingayat-Vokkaliga combine-politics.

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