HD Deve Gowda, Narendra Modi
JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda with PM Narendra Modi. File photo: Twitter/ Deve Gowda

Karnataka: BJP-JD(S) bonhomie fades as 'big brother' counts pluses, minuses

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The Janata Dal (Secular) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may after all not shake hands formally in Karnataka ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

Until recently, there were growing indications that the JD(S) and the BJP, both routed in the May Assembly elections, may embrace one another so as to give the Congress a solid fight in the general elections.

But after a lot of huffing and puffing, the BJP appears to have concluded that sailing with the JD(S) and its mercurial leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy may do it more harm than good.

Also read: Karnataka: Vokkaliga factor hindrance in BJP-JD(S) tie-up for Lok Sabha battle

And if BJP sources in Karnataka are to be believed, even the BJP’s central leadership has come around to accept this although the final word on a possible alliance has not been officially made yet.

BJP assessment

According to a BJP leader in the state, party leaders in Karnataka had several meetings over the issue and submitted a report to the leadership in Delhi.

“(Union Home Minister) Amit Shah has also collected information about the status of JD-S, the pros and cons of an alliance and the happenings in state politics. Thus, for now, talks with JD-S is a closed chapter. The central leadership is also not keen,” the leader told The Federal.

Also read: Karnataka: Shivakumar alleges plot being hatched in Singapore to topple Congress govt

The report suggested the shortcomings of forging a friendship with the JD(S) and said fighting elections independently will help the BJP.

Almost everyone who matters in the Karnataka BJP including former chief ministers BS Yediyurappa and Basavaraj Bommai, general secretary BL Santosh and Union minister Prahlad Joshi are said to have categorically rejected the offer of alliance.

The proposal was reportedly made by the JD(S) to the BJP in Delhi.

Also read: Karnataka | JD(S) has decided to work with BJP as Opposition: Kumaraswamy

Other BJP leaders including R Ashok, Dr CN Ashwatha Narayana and Basanagouda Patil Yatnal also hold similar opinions about the JD-S.

Weakened JD(S)

The dominant thinking is that the JD(S) has become weak in its earlier bastions of Old Mysuru and Bengaluru regions and so is of no use to the BJP.

Although the BJP suffered an electoral rout, it performed creditably both in Old Mysuru and Bengaluru regions.

Also read: Is JD(S) with NDA or Opposition fold? Leadership’s indecisiveness puts party in crisis

But the BJP leaders say they will be happy if the JD(S) merges with their party, particularly if such a merger has the blessings of its founder and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, Kumaraswamy’s father.

In 2004, after former chief minister and Congress leader S Bangarappa joined the BJP, his Eediga (Backward Class) shifted to the BJP – and has remained with the saffron outfit though Bangarappa later joined the Samajwadi Party.

Kumaraswamy was at least partially said to be in agreement with the BJP’s thinking but both HD Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy’s brother HD Revanna have opposed it.

Also read: JD(S) to contest LS elections alone, no alliance with NDA, says Deve Gowda

Merger or NDA?

The two don’t mind joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but don’t want to give up their party.

The BJP says that in Old Mysuru (Hassan, Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar) and Bengaluru region (Ramanagar, Bengaluru rural and Bengaluru region), its vote share rose in 2023 to 21.29 percent from 18.67 per cent in 2018.

In contrast, the JD-S vote share decreased from 38.65 per cent to 29.45 per cent.

Also read: It is premature to talk of JD(S)-BJP alliance in 2024: HD Kumaraswamy

In the Greater Bengaluru region, the BJP’s vote share went up from 34.11 percent to 42.19 percent whereas the JD-S’ fell from 20.20 percent to 12.57 percent.

BJP’s Vokkaliga leaders, including R Ashok, Dr CN Ashwatha Narayana, ST Somashekhar and Dr K Sudhakar fear losing their importance if Kumaraswamy joins hands with the BJP. So they certainly don’t want any tie-up with the JD-S.

Other factors

BJP leaders have not forgiven Kumaraswamy for his vocal attacks in the run-up to the May elections on BJP’s Brahmin leaders like BL Santosh and Prahlad Josi). He also accused a sect of Brahmins of desecrating the Sringeri Shankaracharya Peeth and assassinating Mahatma Gandhi.

Also read: Karnataka: Bommai hints at alliance talks with JD(S) ahead of 2024 LS polls

Even the short-lived friendship following the May elections saw the JD-S take the upper hand in the Assembly proceedings, thanks in main to Kumaraswamy. This sounded alarm bells to the BJP state leadership.

There are also concerns that if the BJP and JD(S) join hands, the Congress charge that the JD-S is a B-team of the BJP will be proved. This will make the secular votes turn wholesale towards the Congress.

The JD-S, it is known, will want at least the five Lok Sabha seats of Mysuru, Mandya, Bengaluru Rural, Tumkur and Hassan. But all these except Bengaluru Rural and Hasan seats are with BJP. Bowing to the JD-S will only help it, not the BJP.

Finally, if there is a tie-up, Kumaraswamy will be more interested in unleashing a personal war against Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah – a former JD(S) leader – and his deputy DK Shivakumar. This may not be to the liking of the state BJP.

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