Though ideologically diverse, the two have come together out of sheer political necessity to form an alliance ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls. The parties have clinched a deal after two months of haggling and working out the optics of the final act meticulously without involving local functionaries.
The JD(S), led by 90-year-old former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, knows his party’s limitations, which is why he went in for a tie-up with the BJP, driven by their fear of being destroyed by Congress in its bastion. It was roundly defeated by the Congress in the assembly polls, ending up with just 19 seats and a 13% vote share, its lowest ever since its formation in 1999.
Meanwhile, BJP has put aside its ideological differences with the JD(S) and tied up with a party of limited base in south Karnataka to checkmate the Congress dominance post the 2023 assembly polls.
If the vote share of the last two assembly and Lok Sabha polls is anything to go by, despite the BJP making inroads in most other parts of the states, it has yet to make a difference in the Vokkaliga stronghold of Old Mysuru region.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won 25 of 28 seats but lost Bengaluru Rural (Congress), Mandya (independent), and Hassan (JDS). The BJP has also never won these three seats since 2004. The major reason why it has not been able to form a government on its own is because of its poor performance in the Vokkaliga belt.
The other advantage the two parties are looking at is the influence of social engineering. The core support base of the BJP and JD(S) are the dominant communities of Lingayats and Vokkaligas, respectively. Their coming together will further consolidate this advantage. “BJP and JD(S) joined hands as they have a common political enemy, the Congress, which will face a litmus test to take on the joint challenge.
This will have a far-reaching impact on state politics. It will be the long-term advantage for the BJP to make Karnataka a direct contest with Congress by pushing JD(S) out of the contest,” said Sandeep Shastri, a psephologist.
“Even if it concedes four seats to JD(S), it will be contesting less than it won last time. For the JD(S), it is a huge gamble. They have never done well in Lok Sabha polls, except in 1996. They are keener on assembly polls. There is the risk of an alliance with the BJP resulting in the BJP eating into their vote bank. The same happened when Ramkrishna Hegde‘s Lok Shakti aligned with the BJP and helped shift the Lingayat votes to BJP. Could the same happen to the Vokkaliga vote,” Shastri said.
Political commentator Prof. Ravindra Reshme said Congress, which is beaming with confidence over its poll guarantees, would find it tough in the Vokkaliga bastion when Gowda and PM Narendra Modi begin their joint assault ahead of the elections.
Vishwas Shetty, another political commentator, said the alliance will also end the “adjustment politics” culture. “The senior party leaders of all three major parties had a common understanding to field weak candidates against each other,” he claimed.
According to him, by joining hands with JD(S), the BJP has acknowledged that it is on the backfoot in Karnataka and is finding it difficult to retain its earlier tally of 25. “The alliance may hurt the BJP more than the JDS, as the former has always benefited in a three-way contest as Congress and JDS have a common vote bank,” said Shetty.
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