BJP-JDS Alliance could pose a Challenge to Congress in Karnataka


The announcement by former Karnataka Chief Minister, B.S.Yeddyurappa that the BJP had reached an understanding with Janata Dal (Secular) for the forthcoming Lok Sabha Election, implies that the Saffron Brigade is desperate to reclaim its supremacy in the Southern State, where it was once in power. In the Assembly polls held some months ago, the BJP was trounced by the Congress and is yet to fully recover from the shock. The defeat meant that the BJP’s only Southern bastion was threatened and it needed to pull up its socks for the Parliamentary elections. Former Prime Minister H.D.Deva Gowda is understood to have had meetings with both the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the BJP president J.P. Nadda before the declaration was made. As per the arrangement, the JD (S) shall contest on four seats—Kolar, Hassan, Mandya and Bengaluru Rural, while the BJP shall field nominees on the remaining 24 seats in Karnataka. The JD (S) had also wanted two more seats, but the BJP was reluctant to give in to the demand. At present, the JD(S) has only one seat in the Lok Sabha (Hassan), which was won last time by Pranjwal Revanna, a grand nephew of Deva Gowda. The BJP had been triumphant in 26 and the Congress bagged one seat—Deputy Chief Minister, D.K.Shivakumar’s brother, D.K.Sureshkumar was victorious. Several BJP leaders have claimed that the Congress would be wiped out in the Lok Sabha election, primarily because of infighting as well due to its inability to keep promises made before the Assembly poll. However, the BJP’s position is also not too good; Yeddyurappa, who was the main spearhead has been marginalized, and no other leader has come up to be his successor. The BJP’s support base was because of the heavy backing it received from the dominant Lingayat community, which seems to have been divided during the last polls. Former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who also enjoys considerable influence amongst the Lingayats, left the party and had joined the Congress. Even though, he had himself lost, his influence continues to be there in several regions of North Karnataka and in the Bombay-Karnataka belt. Surprisingly, the Congress has not given anything substantial to Shettar, whose main reason for leaving the party was the continuous interference in the State’s affairs by senior functionary, B.L.Santosh. While it is the BJP’s internal matter as to who it should appoint to deal with the State issues, the fact remains that there is deep resentment in many quarters over Santosh’s attitude towards party workers. Despite the defeat, the BJP has been unable to identify prominent names who could play a major role in reviving the party in the future. Within the Congress, the situation is also grim. Supporters of Shivakumar are unhappy that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was taking unilateral decisions on key matters. He has been doing so after consultations mostly with those who had followed him from the JD (S) into the Congress, it is being alleged. However, it needs to be clearly understood that Siddaramaiah is across party lines, the tallest leader of the State and the Lok Sabha elections would be held under his watch. Shivakumar is immensely popular amongst workers and Congress activists and would be in consideration to be his successor, only after the arrangement reached between the two leaders comes fully into play. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge is also observing the developments very closely and his primary aim at present is to somehow get his party to repeat its Assembly polls performance in Lok Sabha also. If the Congress wins, half or more than half the seats in the State, it would be a big jolt to the BJP, whose numbers are expected to come down nationally as well. There is also some insecurity amongst MLAs, that if the One Nation One Election principle comes into play, the BJP could wrest advantage, though this does not seem to be happening at least in the immediate future. The BJP’s main vote base has been Lingayats and by aligning with the JD(S), it is hoping that the Vokkaligas, the other major community would also come out and support it. The twist in the tale is that the Lingayats could be swayed by Shettar who is in the Congress and the Vokkaligas by Shivakumar, who is seen as the future leader of the community and the State, and thus could eventually be Deva Gowda’s political successor so far as the Vokkaligas go. The Congress in order to defend its new citadel, must put up a more united front. It means that both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar should appear to be on the same side instead of giving an impression that there were differences. Both are seasoned leaders and know the importance of winning in the Lok Sabha so that the Congress position gets consolidated. But the BJP-JD (S) challenge should not be dismissed lightly as the Saffron Brigade under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is capable of turning the tables. Therefore, like in every election, nothing should be taken for granted.