Janata Dal (Secular) patriarch Deve Gowda has confirmed that an alliance with the BJP is on the cards in Karnataka for the upcoming general election. A BJP-JD(S) tie-up is a formidable alliance on paper: In the recent assembly elections that the Congress won, the BJP-JD(S) combined vote share was 49.29%, as against the former’s 42.88%. Despite losing ground over the years, the JD(S) has a base in the Old Mysuru region and continues to have pockets of influence across the state. A three-cornered contest helped the Congress in the assembly polls, while the BJP juggernaut could not be stopped despite a Congress-JD(S) tie-up in the last general election.
The BJP-JD(S) tie-up raises questions about the future of the latter. Can the JD(S) keep its core support, which is voters indifferent to both the Congress and the BJP? Historically, it has been a formation that drew its strength from the Lohiaite socialist stream and the Congress-O, which became the Janata Party in Karnataka in the 1970s. Multiple splits since the 1980s have reduced its base. The Janata Party could win the state on its own in the 1980s, but the JD(S) is now largely confined to the Vokkaliga community and a section of Muslims. The rise of D K Shivakumar in the Congress may impact the JD(S)’s Vokkaliga vote while an alliance with the BJP can lead to a loss of support among Muslims. As for the BJP, the party aims to consolidate the full anti-Congress spectrum votes, and the tie-up with JD(S) offers the opportunity to expand its base in the latter’s stronghold. Politics in Karnataka is set for a churn ahead of the general election.