In the backdrop of the Mahamastakabhisheka at Shravanabelagola, rumours ran abuzz due to the conspicuous absence of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda on February 19 when he was expected to share the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It was less than a week ago that Deve Gowda, during a media interaction, had strongly signalled for a plausible alliance between Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections. The JD(S) supremo made it amply clear that he will go every extra mile to keep his former associate and now Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah out of power.
Therefore for political observers, Gowda’s no-show during PM Modi’s visit primarily indicated that the pre-polls alliance talks between the two parties have failed and they may not come together for the 2018 Karnataka Assembly polls.
Ever since the BJP was elected to power in 2014 at the Centre, Deve Gowda has maintained a cordial relation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even in Karnataka, the JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy enjoys a good relationship with Vokkaliga leaders in the state BJP. It was the same rapport between the leadership of the two parties that brought them together as coalition partners in the 2006 Assembly elections. However, while Gowda seems to have forgiven and forgotten the ugly spat and fallout of its partnership with the BJP, the right-wing party has no intention of giving in to the renewed hopes of its former ally.
Both parties do realise that they need each other to come back to power and speculations are rife that it might have happened as well. However, the BJP, in particular its central leadership, is hell bent that its state unit secures the 2018 Assembly majority on its own. Subsequently, the local BJP leaders have been asked not to budge to the JD(S) proposal.
JD(S) attempts to rope in BSP, NCP
The mixed signals sent out by the BJP has not gone down well with the JD(S). Clearly embarrassed, the party is now trying to carve its own path by joining hands with the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP). The move to rope in the BSP and NCP for the state elections is also viewed as an effort by the JD(S) to revive itself in the upcoming Assembly elections and to have an edge on the Congress. For, by joining hands with the BSP, the father and son duo is cleverly trying to hit on the Congress’ major vote bank – the Dalit, backward and minority communities. Considering recent developments, the backward sections and Dalit communities have favoured the Congress of late. But by trucking with the BSP, Gowda hopes to snatch more seats from the Congress.
So what if the JD(S) cannot gain a sweeping victory, its leaders are confident that by eating into Congress votes, its relevance in the state as ‘kingmaker’ will continue, alongside its partners, NCP and BSP. Eventually JD(S) can make claims for plum posts from the BJP, post electoral victory.
But claiming the Dalit vote bank will not be a cakewalk for JD(S). Even as Deve Gowda and Mayawati are deciding on poll strategies, it is learnt that the local BSP leaders and Dalit organisations have represented to the BSP leadership not to join hands with the JD(S). For, the objectives of both the parties are different. The local BSP leadership is of the opinion that the JD(S) is hankering for power and hence wants to join hands. So, it is unlikely that the BSP workers wholeheartedly support JD(S) candidacy in the polls.
JD(S) recovery still possible
Nevertheless, JD(S)’s resurgence as ‘kingmaker’ cannot be completely ruled out. Despite anti-incumbency, the JD(S) leadership had managed to secure 40 seats (approximately 18%) in the 2013 polls. But its alliance with BSP and NCP is just not enough as both those parties have non-existent vote banks in the recent polls. It’s obvious that the JD(S) is more dependent on the BJP than otherwise.
However, many believe that the ‘on-off’ relationship between the JD(S) and the BJP in Karnataka is beyond repair. Attempts by the JD(S) for a favourable alliance agreement with the BJP have largely remained unsuccessful.
Take the case of Gowda’s agreement with the BSP and his absence at the Mahamastakabhisheka where PM Narendra Modi was present. Both these prove beyond a doubt that the JD(S) and BJP have decided to keep their alliance on the back burner.
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