For the Janata Dal (S), there are two possible outcomes in the Karnataka election 2018. It either could play kingmaker or become completely irrelevant. Karnataka votes on May 12 and counting would take place on May 15.
Many within the party and in political circles feel that the coming election is a testing one for the JD(S) to remain politically relevant as it has been out of power for over 10 years now.
They say, besides improving its tally in the Assembly, the JD(S) will have to look for chances to cling on to power.
Internal squabbling, tag of father-son and Vokkaliga-only party are the issues the Janata Dal (Secular) has to immediately address to restore its pan Karnataka image that the erstwhile Janata Dal, which dominated state politics in the 1980s, enjoyed.
The JD(S) today has considerable presence in old Mysuru region, where the Vokkaliga community has a dominant presence and is restricted to a few pockets in the rest of the state.
Conceding that it is the battle of survival for the JD(S), senior leader and MLA Y S V Datta said his party was trying to cash in on the goodwill of the people, who have seen both the BJP and the Congress in power, and is seeking a "chance".
"Of course, it is a battle of survival for our party, because we are out of power for 10 years...," he told PTI.
He noted that in 2008 there was a charge against H D Kumaraswamy that he did not hand over power to Yeddyurappa, resulting in the Lingayat community voting against the party.
In 2013, Siddaramaiah alleged that JD(S) denied him the post of chief minister, resulting in an anti-Kuruba wave.
"People punished us in both elections. But now after seeing both parties in power, there is realisation among people to give a chance to JD(S)."
Siddaramaiah belongs to the Kuruba community, the third major community after Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat strongman.
Asserting that there is no more anti-Lingayat or anti-Kuruba wave against JD(S), Datta said he was confident of good prospects for the party in the elections and dismissed any negative effects of leaders quitting, terming it "normal practice" ahead of polls.
However, political analyst Narayana A, who teaches political philosophy and Indian politics at Azim Premji University, says election being a battle of survival was something that was said of the JD(S) in the past also, but the party survived.
Stating that coming to power was not the only test of survival for a party, he opined that the JD(S) seemed to be in hibernation till now. It was looking more vibrant in many constituencies with many people joining the party, he said.
"In every political constituency in Karnataka, there are so many contenders and the number of candidates far exceeds slots available in the parties. These political aspirants need an established party and JD(S) suits them well," he said.
Pointing that the JD(S) last time won 40 seats, the same number as the BJP, Narayana said in many constituencies they came a close second, meaning it has some kind of potential and strength. "So I dont think it is a battle for survival; the party will stay, but it might stay out of power."
He said that "until the JD(S)s hold on Vokkaliga votes lasts, the party will last."
Not willing to call the assembly election as a battle of survival for JD(S), political scientist Sandeep Shastri said it is a battle for the JD(S) to retain its identity.
"Many would argue that Karnataka is being reduced to a two party competition between Congress and BJP. JD(S), I think, in this election is trying to prove that as a third force it is still important and relevant to the politics of Karnataka."
Also, more than the label of Vokkaliga party, the perception of a family-controlled party is something the JD(S) has to deal with, he said.
The JD(S) had in the past partnered with the Congress and the BJP to form coalition governments and it was a reason for it being criticised as a party without any ideology and "opportunist".
The JD(S) had lent support to Dharm Singh-led Congress-JD(S) government in the past, but it fell in 2006 as party MLAs rebelled under the leadership of H D Kumaraswamy and joined hands with the BJP form the government in the state.
Kumaraswamys alleged failure in honouring a deal with the BJP to hold the office of chief minister by rotation (20 months each), led to the collapse of the coalition government.
The 2008 polls saw the BJPs resurgence in the state that formed its first-ever government in the South with the help of independents.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, one-time confidant of Gowda, was expelled from the JD(S) in 2006, after which he joined the Congress. He has several times alleged he was expelled to favour prospects of Gowdas son Kumaraswamy in the JD(S).
Seven prominent JD(S) MLAs, considered part of the inner circles of Kumaraswamy, recently joined the Congress.They too have alleged about Gowda familys dominance in the party.
In the face of criticism, Gowda this time said only two family members - Revanna (elder son) and Kumaraswamy - will contest the polls, in an attempt to wipe out the "father-sons party" label attached to the JD(S), despite demand from his grandson Prajwal Revanna for the ticket.
The JD(S) has already announced candidates for 126 constituencies, and is in alliance with the BSP with an intention to garner backward classes votes.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|