A united Congress and JD(S) to fight BJP in Karnataka assembly elections
With neither the BJP, the Congress or the JD(S) making it to a simple majority, Karnataka may very well be in for another coalition government after the 2018 assembly elections. While BJP, as well as the Congress, is hoping to win 150 seats, the ground reality is very different. While the pre-poll alliance has been brushed aside by all three parties, the Congress is preparing to ally with the JD(S) if need be to counter the BJP.
Congress-JD(S) camaraderie during bypolls
The step towards Congress' victory in the Gundlupert and Nanjangud bypoll was the JD(S) not fielding a candidate. Almost all votes of the JD(S) was cast in support of Congress candidates in both constituencies. Despite the JD(S) claiming that it had asked party workers to vote freely, the message was loud and clear, 'not the BJP'.
The backdoor support that the JD(S) extended to the Congress became evident after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah thanked JD(S) national president Devegowda after a win in both constituencies. While he maintained that he thanked the party for not fielding candidates, grassroots workers who campaigned for the Congress conveyed that JD(S) votes went straight to the Congress especially because the party's candidate in Nanjangud was a former JD(S) man.
JD(S) will fight 76 seats tooth and nail
In the upcoming assembly elections, the JD(S) considering the candidates and the funds, is set to fight tooth and nail but not in all of the 225 constituencies.
Realistically, the JD(S) will fight about 76 seats. While it is a very real contender in seats from Kodagu to Bengaluru and some scattered seats in North Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka region, JD(S) will not be a key player in more than 80 seats at the most. Even if the party manages to win 10 seats more than its previous count and the rest are divided between the Congress and the BJP with none getting a simple majority, JD(S) becomes the kingmaker.
Pre-poll alliance not a possibility, but post poll is the question
Much like what happened in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike elections, the Congress and the JD(S) are likely to enter into a post-poll alliance. With a pre-poll alliance, the Congress and the JD(S) do not want to give BJP the opportunity to cry foul and play the victim. The BJP is surging ahead in most elections held after 2014 and 2018 assembly elections in Karnataka is crucial for the Congress that is fighting for relevance.
Karnataka is the largest state where Congress is in power currently and the party is trying everything it can to retain power. JD(S) chief Devegowda has time and again reiterated that the BJP should not be allowed to win in the state. He also joined hands with the other Janata parties across the country to put up a united fight. While backdoor discussions about a post-poll alliance are already underway, both parties have denied the same in public. For now, all three parties in Karnataka are going to polls alone.
Is Congress government indulging in arm-twisting?
Ever since the Gundlupet and Nanjangud assembly polls, the Congress' stance on JD(S) in Karnataka has become soft. Even during Chief Minister's interaction with the media on completion of four years of governance, no attacks were launched on the JD(S).
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was careful to attack the BJP but did not speak a word about the JD(S). Incidentally, state president of JD(S) H D Kumaraswamy had been criticising the Chief Minister over the Cauvery issue, drought and farmer issues. But the Congress has not launched any attacks on the JD(S). This selective favouritism among the opposition parties had led to speculation that the Congress is preparing to ally with the JD(S) post the 2018 elections. Workers of the JD(S) believe that the investigations against Kumaraswamy may also be an arm-twisting tactic that the Congress is using to strike a deal on the poll alliance.
BJP to counter a united Congress and JD(S)
BJP claims that it is unfazed by the possible alliance. The party belives that it will get a simple majority to come to power in the state. BJP is confident of emerging as the single largest party. But the question is if emerging as the single largest party is enough.
After all, the party did emerge as the single largest during the BBMP elections but was compelled to sit in the opposition seats after the Congress and JD(S) united to elect a mayor. While the Congress claims that it will not ally with the JD(S) after witnessing what it did to the BJP when they were running a coalition government, the BJP is confident that they would not need a kingmaker to come to power. But the possibility of a post poll alliance looks very real, given the current scenario.