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K’taka: As JD(S) turns punching bag for BJP, Congress, Deve Gowda clan fights existential battle


Bengaluru, May 8: Are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)) on the same page? Or the same question can be reframed as whether the former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda-led party is the B-team of BJP in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections? Or is the JD(S) the B-team of Congress as alleged by the BJP?

While a section of the national media still continues to call the polls in the southern state as a "triangular battle" giving the JD(S) a place of prominence, over the last few weeks it is pretty clear the elections in Karnataka is nothing but a fierce contest between the BJP and the incumbent Congress. In case, it is a hung Assembly, as predicted by most of the pre-poll surveys, the JD(S) will have to enact the role of a "kingmaker" provided it gets more than 30-35 seats.

Deve Gowda

On its part, the JD(S), which has formed an alliance with Dalit leader Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), continues to maintain that it's going to emerge as the winner in the elections. However, future does not seem to look pretty bright for the party patriarch and his son and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy as allegations levelled against the party by both the BJP and the Congress have succeeded in eroding its popularity to some extent.

It is a do-or-die battle for the JD(S) in the May 12 Assembly elections in the state if it has to have any stake in the new government. The last time the JD(S) was in the helm of affairs in the state was way back in 2006 when Kumaraswamy became the CM of Karnataka after forging an alliance with the BJP for 20 months. Prior to that, the JD(S) formed a coalition government with the Congress in 2004. The alliance broke and the JD(S) switched sides to join hands with the BJP.

Currently, the Congress and the JD(S) are together running the Bengaluru municipal corporation, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). However, the two parties refused to form a pre-poll alliance to fight the 224-member Assembly elections in the state, the results of which will be declared on May 15.

It was a couple of months ago, when a visibly angry-looking Congress president Rahul Gandhi during one of his state visits alleged that the JD(S) was the B-team of the BJP. Neither the BJP nor the JD(S) immediately refuted the allegations. In between the JD(S), which had won 40 seats in the last Assembly elections in 2013, maintained that the party was going to be the "king" and not "kingmaker" after the elections, in an attempt to portray itself as the main player.

However, things took another turn for the JD(S) when Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his whirlpool campaign for the BJP in the state, beginning from May 1. On the very first day of his visit to Karnataka, Modi showered unexpected praises on the JD(S) patriarch. He said he respects Deve Gowda. The PM's benevolence towards his predecessor, who had earlier said that he would commit suicide if Modi became the PM of the country in 2014, was quickly construed by the Congress and poll analysts as an admission by Modi himself that the BJP is having a "secret pact" with the JD(S).

Once again, the theory was thrown to dustbin by Modi himself when a few days later the PM asked voters not to waste their votes on the JD(S) and indicated that the party has a "secret" understanding with the Congress.

The JD(S), having no option at all, denied the allegations made by the PM. Amid this love-hate relationship between the BJP and the JD(S), the saffron party's top leaders including Modi and BJP president Amit Shah continued praising Deve Gowda. The JD(S) supremo, on his part, had earlier said that he would sever ties with his son Kumaraswamy if he supports the BJP after the elections (in case there is a hung assembly).

On Sunday, Kumarswamy told NDTV that his party will get a clear majority. "I am totally confident that I will get a clear majority on my own. I am not bothered about the (opinion) polls as I have information about the ground reality," Kumaraswamy told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

The JD(S), known to enjoy huge support among the members of Vokkaliga community with a strong base in south Karnataka, is hoping to regain some base in north Karnataka this time.

JD(S) chief spokesperson Danish Ali recently gave a new spin to the entire issue by saying that actually the BJP and the Congress have "joined hands" to kill regional parties and that is why his party is being constantly attacked by both the sides. There are also reports that the father-son duo has developed some cold vibes before the polls, which again the JD(S) has denied.

On Monday, Kumaraswamy astonished many when he told reporters that he would support the party which will fulfil the manifesto of JD(S). Congress president, on Monday, once again asked the JD(S) to clear its position about whom it is going to support.

As the JD(S) is fast looking like a "tennis ball" being hit by the Congress and the BJP with equal amount of vim and vigour, the party is putting up a brave face to swim through the election tsunami. After all, it is a do-or-die battle for the JD(S) to remain relevant in Karnataka politics in the future.


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