The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) have formally solidified their partnership, and the JDS is on the verge of joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in preparation for the upcoming Lok Sabha election next year.
At present, specifics regarding the allocation of seats remain uncertain. Initially, senior BJP leader BS Yediyurappa had suggested that the smaller JDS party would contest four seats, but this assertion was contradicted by JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy, who indicated that “details will be revealed after (next week’s) Ganesh Chaturthi.”
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP secured victories in 25 constituencies, while the JDS, in collaboration with the Congress at that time, managed to secure only one seat. However, following a substantial setback in the 2023 Assembly election, during which the BJP won 66 seats (less than half of the Congress’s 135), and the JDS recorded its second-worst performance with 19 seats, these two defeated parties have now forged an alliance.
When superimposing the Lok Sabha election results onto the Assembly segment map, it becomes apparent that the Congress won 18 seats, the BJP secured eight, and the JDS managed to secure two. Maintaining a robust presence in Karnataka is of paramount importance to the BJP, particularly as it confronts challenges in Bihar and Maharashtra due to the defection of its allies.
It is worth noting that state election outcomes may not necessarily mirror those of a general election, owing to the influence of the ‘Modi factor’ on the BJP’s performance. In the Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi played a pivotal role in persuading 19 percent of voters to opt for the BJP, according to Axis My India. In contrast, this figure exceeded 50 percent in the 2019 election, as indicated by a survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Notwithstanding these political dynamics, surveys suggest that the BJP may encounter a reduction in its seat count by two to six seats, accompanied by a corresponding decrease of seven percent in vote share. Conversely, the Congress is actively cultivating a pool of welfare beneficiaries, referred to as “labharthis,” to counter the BJP’s model, which is implemented by the central government. Moreover, the Congress has succeeded in garnering support from Vokkaligas and Lingayats, along with the AHINDA coalition (representing marginalized classes and Muslims), thereby forming a significant social alliance.
Presently, the local BJP unit grapples with factionalism to the extent that it has not yet nominated its Leader of the Opposition candidate, and the decision has been deferred to Mr. Yediyurappa. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has even speculated that the BJP may support Mr. Kumaraswamy for this position, a prospect previously deemed unthinkable.
JDS patriarch and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda has emphasized that forming an alliance with the BJP was “essential” to “save” the regional party, and this should not be misinterpreted as the JDS having exhausted all its options. Following a significant reduction in its Assembly seat count, from 37 seats in 2018 to 19 in 2023, the JDS is grappling with an existential crisis. Most of these losses, specifically 17 seats, occurred in traditional strongholds in Old Mysuru and Bengaluru.
Furthermore, Mr. Deve Gowda has insinuated that Siddaramaiah may be plotting to eliminate the JDS, partly as retribution for a 2018 electoral defeat against a JDS candidate and due to historical developments dating back to 2005. The JDS has also expressed dissatisfaction with the Congress for failing to adhere to coalition principles and for its inability to effectively transfer votes to JDS candidates in the 2019 election, resulting in defeats for Mr. Deve Gowda and Mr. Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil.
In the 2023 election, the Congress chose not to forge an alliance with the JDS and managed to make inroads into the Vokkaliga vote bank, leading to a 30 percent decline in support for the JDS within this community. Notably, 22 percent of these votes shifted to the Congress. Furthermore, the Congress has nominated Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, a prominent Vokkaliga leader, to directly compete with the Gowda family. Consequently, the JDS faces the risk of losing further support from this influential community, as the Congress now has the potential to field a Vokkaliga Chief Minister.
The BJP is pinning its hopes on the JDS to channel its Vokkaliga votes to the party, thereby bolstering its prospects in southern Karnataka, particularly in the Old Mysuru and Bengaluru regions. In exchange, the JDS seeks support from Brahmin, Lingayat, and certain OBC voters, which could compensate for the loss of minority, tribal, and Dalit voters to the Congress. While this alliance benefits both parties in