Mahaghatbandan on the cards in Karnataka ahead of 2018?

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The assembly elections in Karnataka are almost a year away but political calculations have already begun. If the April 9 bypoll in Nanjangud and Gundlept is anything to go by, a mahaghatbandhan (grand alliance) is a possibility between the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular in Karnataka for next year's assembly polls. The results of the bypoll will dictate the future course of both parties and if they will join hands to restrain the Bharatiya Janata Party's galloping victory horse.

Mahaghatbandan on the cards in Karnataka ahead of 2018?

For the Congress, the bypoll is a matter of pride and the challenge of retaining its bastions. The party that couldn't find a single candidate from within chose the wife of late Mahadevprasad for Gundlupet seat and former JD-S man Kalale Keshavamurthy for Nanjangud seat. The JD-S has conveniently withdrawn from the elections deeming it a 'waste of money and energy. JD-S' leaders have maintained that their supporters will be neutral in voting but Congress' candidate Keshavamurthy is a man of influence in Nanjangud.

He lost to Srinivas Prasad by a mere 8,000 vote difference in the 2013 assembly elections but this time around is confident that apart from his supporters, he will also get the Congress' loyal votes, those that have not been snatched by Srinivas Prasad already. In Gundlupet, the Congress is confident of a victory and JD-S' votes are likely to be divided. If the combination proves to be a success in the bypoll, both parties are likely to consider the same formula for the 2018 assembly polls. The BJP's winning streak is a matter of concern for both the parties.

Leaders of the Congress, however, have rejected the possibility of a pre-poll alliance. "The Congress does not have a history of a pre-poll alliance in Karnataka and it won't happen this time around too. How can we trust a party like the JD-S that has changed its stance multiple times? We are confident of a victory on our own," said an All India Congress Committee office-bearer while speaking to OneIndia. The BJP is unfazed by the possibility. "Alliance is for those who fear losing polls. The BJP is confident of a win and does not care who really allies with who. What is the basis of their alliance? If the only agenda is to defeat the BJP, such alliances do not last," said a BJP leader.

While the Congress rejects the possibilities of an alliance, they also maintain that the JD-S' non-participation in the bypoll is a result of not having candidates and not because they support the Congress. The BJP claims to be sure of continuing its victory streak in Karnataka but it is to be seen if the Congress is able to retain power independently or joins forces with the JD-S.

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