Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress Party have been hogging the limelight ever since the elections in Karnataka were announced. The people from outside the state have supported and learnt all about the two national parties and their candidates in the recent times. There is, however, a third party which could play the decisive role in forming the government in Karnataka, Janata Dal (Secular). JDS is the political party of the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and it is a force to reckon with in the state. In the 2013 assembly elections, JDS had won the same number of seats as the BJP, 40 out of a total of 224. JDS had a little advantage in terms of vote share over BJP. The former secured 20.2% of votes over BJP’s 19.9%. If these facts and figures are accounted for along with the results of the surveys and polls conducted in the past few months, it is possible that JDS could play the role of Kingmaker in the upcoming government.
The incumbent Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has shunned the company of his former mentor Deve Gowda countless times. Siddaramaiah has left no stone unturned to showcase his anger towards JDS and its leaders. Deve Gowda too had publically gone out all guns blazing against Siddaramaiah in a party event when he said “The Chief Minister (Siddaramaiah) who is mean to this extent, has grown from this party. Is he a Chief Minister? How long will you stay? I will see. I have taken a vow. I will today seek apology from the people of Karnataka for grooming such an immoral politician…….Grooming such a lowly Chief Minister is my biggest mistake. I will repeatedly say he is unfit to continue in the post.”
“I warn chief minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress that if we stand besides BJP and cough, the Congress party will be vanquished from Karnataka politics.” Deve Gowda’s son and former CM of Karnataka, H.D. Kumaraswamy, had been quoted saying in March this year. It is noteworthy that BJP and JDS had been earlier involved in forming a coalition government in 2006-07 too. Kumaraswamy had sworn in as the CM while BJP chief in the state B.S. Yeddyurappa had become the deputy CM in 2006.
All the polls and surveys conducted in the past few months have pointed towards one thing; no party will be able to get clear majority in the elections of 2018. A hung assembly is the most likely outcome of the elections. The magical number of 112 needed to form government in the state therefore can be achieved only by a coalition government. BJP is likely to emerge as the largest party following the elections while Congress party followed by JDS will take up the number 2 and 3 spots respectively. An alliance between Congress and JDS is highly unlikely taking into account the animosity between the incumbent CM and JDS leadership. JDS also would not be able to get anything more than a Deputy CM post if it forms the government with Congress. Congress is not in the centre and has little to offer other than positions in the Karnataka state cabinet. The existing Congress-JDS alliance in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (Municipal Corporation) does not matter enough as state politics is a different game altogether from the national level.
An alliance with BJP though, would open up new avenues for the JDS. A coalition with the BJP could open the doors of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the JDS. It would be a huge opportunity for re-entry in the national political scene with chances of Cabinet positions for the JDS ministers. A Deputy CM post in the state would surely be allotted to the JDS without much hassle. BJP badly needs regional parties owing to its fork in the recent times with Chandra Babu Naidu’s Telugu Desham Party (TDP) and Shiv Sena. JDS could fill in that gap and demand more for its cadres at both the national and state level.
BJP and JDS have a lot to gain from a probable alliance at the state level in Karnataka. A symbiotic relationship could develop which would benefit both the parties equally if it doesn’t benefit JDS more. This probable alliance, if made possible, could lead to the wipe-out of Congress from the state and fulfill the demand and needs of both BJP and JDS leadership in case BJP does not get a clear majority as is being predicted in the Karnataka polls.