The new friendship between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) is likely to gain BJP an upper hand in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The national party is hoping it will be able to stem its losses in JDS-controlled regions, and as history suggests, it will eventually be able to acquire the same voter base for itself.  

HD Devegowda family-led JDS joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on September 22, after much deliberation by both ideologically diverse parties. BJP leaders celebrated the alliance, as BS Yediyurappa wrote, “Together we will build a stronger NDA and a New India,”

‘Political game-changer’

Former Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the alliance to be a “political game-changer” in Karnataka. JDS Leader HD Kumaraswamy too said he believes that the alliance will “solve many burning problems facing the State.” 

BJP, which won 25 of the 28 seats in the last Lok Sabha polls, wants to leave no stone unturned to ensure that the party does not lose seats and compete head-to-head with Congress, which recently registered a thumping win in the Assembly polls in the State. With the alliance, even at the cost of few seats, BJP is vying to leverage JDS’ stronghold on the Vokkaliga voter base and make strong inroads in the Old Mysuru Region, which it so far hasn’t been able to crack. 

“When two parties have a common enemy, it brings them together and given the fact that the Congress did give a drubbing to the BJP in assembly elections, I think the BJP felt that one way of challenging the Congress is to come together with JDS. In a sense, it is a climb down for the BJP because even if they concede only four seats to JDS, they will only be contesting as many seats as they won last time, which indicates that the party is not in a stronger position as it was in 2019,” said political analyst Sandeep Shastri. 

BJP has had a history of gaining from Janata Dal’s vote bank. In 1998-99 when ex-Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde Lok Shakti Party tied up with BJP after the Janata Dal’s split, a significant chunk of the Lingayat vote bank shifted to BJP and even now continues to be its stronghold. 

Strategy ahead

Shastri said that “The BJP’s larger gameplan is to make Karnataka bipolar state which would have a competition between them and the Congress and one way of doing this is to stitch an alliance with the JDS and in the process marginalize them.” As history suggests, this time too, JDS’ Vokkaliga vote base can get transferred to BJP not just for the upcoming elections but for the subsequent ones as well, he added. 

Just as the BJP has a history of gaining a vote bank, JDS has a history of losing a vote bank to its alliances. The 2019 alliance between Congress and JDS has proven to be beneficial for Congress in the long run as it was able to make significant inroads in the Old Mysuru Region in 2023 Assembly polls. 

“It seems like JDS has opted for a survival gamble. Given the fact that they would like to have an opportunity to embarrass the Congress, it imminently suits the JDS to have this alliance with the BJP. But it is much more of a short-term advantage and it is to be wondered if JDS is calculating the long-term implications of what it’s doing,” Shastri said.