This is not the first time that the JD(S) has entered into an alliance with the BJP. In 2006, with the tacit blessing of the senior JD(S) leader, the former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, the JD(S) had brokered an alliance and his son HD Kumaraswamy headed the alliance government. But it could not last long as personal ambitions, internal feud and caste contradictions created an unsavoury situation and the government had to bow out of power.
Once again, the senior Gowda has worked on an ambitious project and allowed his son to have an alliance with the BJP. Apparently, his son HD Kumaraswamy makes the political decisions, but the fact remains that senior Gowda prepares the ground. This time also, he tried to justify his action of entering into alliance with the BJP by projecting that his move enjoys the ideological and political support of the Marxist chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, which was outright denied by the latter within 24 hours of the Gowda announcement.
Barely five days back, the senior Gowda claimed that all the state units of the party, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, had given their consent to align with the BJP.”In Kerala, we are part of the government and our MLA is a minister there. These units understood the situation that made us to go with the BJP and supported our move. Our minister in the Left party’s government (K Krishnankutty) in Kerala has given consent”.
“Kerala’s Left government’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has given full concurrence to move forward in Karnataka with the BJP to save the party. This is the position,” Gowda claimed. He insisted many Muslim leaders in the JD(S) have also supported the party’s decision to join hands with the saffron party.
The fact is otherwise. The JD(S) units of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have opposed this move. On October 7, JD(S) Kerala president, Mathew T Thomas, said the high command made the announcement without discussion in any party forum. Thomas and Minister Krishnankutty had visited Bengaluru earlier this month and informed Deve Gowda that they would not accept the decision of the alliance.
Factors which prompted Gowda and his son to join hands with BJP in public are at the moment not apparent. The day he claimed that many Muslim leaders have supported his move, state unit president CM Ibrahim along with 12 senior other Muslim leaders opposed the alliance with the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Incidentally, it was his opposition to the move that irked senior Gowda and in retaliation he sacked Ibrahim from the party. Upset with the removal, he described Gowda’s decision as “Vinasha Kaale Vipareeta Buddhi” (As the doom approaches, one’s intelligence functions perversely).
Obviously, the question arises that was it the simple case of sharing the power with the BJP, or some other reason that forced senior Gowda to embark on this hazardous path, when the BJP has been faced with inner revolt in almost all the states, and even RSS conceding that Modi has lost his charisma and image which were essential to win election. Gowda being a senior politician ought to have realised that Modi’s political appeal is on decline and the INDIA bloc has emerged as the most potent force to challenge his authority.
It’s clear that this alliance is not going to help either the JD(S) or the BJP. The respective caste bases of these parties have been nursing hostility and antagonistic relations. Vokkaliga, the support base of JD(S) has not been opposed to the caste base of BJP. Till the patriarch of the BJP B S Yediyurappa was active, the Lingayats were actively associated with the BJP. But with his withdrawing from active politics, the message has gone down the line that it was humiliation inflicted on him by the Gujarat leaders, Modi and Amit Shah, which forced him into retreating. In this backdrop the BJP may feel satisfied with getting the support of the Vokkaliga community, but how far this support would salvage the political situation for the party is quite uncertain.
Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy may be nursing the view that they would dictate the terms, but they are mistaken. After losing the support of the Muslims and secular forces, the JD(S) has turned vulnerable. On their part, the Muslim leaders of JD(S) have started the process of consolidation of the Muslim support and following. Ibrahim held meetings with “likeminded” people of the JD(S) during the week and is working to evolve an alternate forum.
Most of the Muslim and secular leaders are contemplating joining Congress and they are waiting for signal from the national Congress leadership. Leaders of the Vokkaliga community are also in the state of stupor. They are holding parleys to evolve a way out as a significant number of them abhor the idea of getting identified with the BJP. Of course, the fact is Vokkaliga members consider JDS as their party. Their support echoes throughout the state. In 2018, out of seven seats of the Hassan district, six were won by the JDS and one by the BJP. The BJP won Hassan local assembly seat, considered to be the capital of Vokkaliga, for the second time in history.
Barely a fortnight ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections, the experts had announced that JD(S) would be the king maker. But the results proved them absolutely wrong; they were out of the touch with the ground realities. Once again the experts are propounding that the split in the JD(S), almost all the top Muslim leaders quitting the party in protest against JD(S) entering into alliance with the BJP, would not have any impact on the future of JD(S) and it would emerge stronger.
The forecast is based on the caste support. But they tend to ignore the basic truth that Vokkaligas have fundamental differences with the BJP. Till the 2023 assembly election, the BJP was supposed to enjoy the support of Lingayat. But with Yediyurappa preferring to sit on the bench, the Lingayats are feeling offended. The pain of getting marginalised in state politics and Modi and Shah turning contemptuous towards B S Yediyurappa, the Lingayats are not so keen to put their best behind the BJP.
Yet another factor that is working against the BJP is its Gujarati orientation. The manner in which Modi and Shah used their office and power to push the Gujarat based business houses in Karnataka, has turned them scared. Though the party leaders do not accept this publicly, they confide privately that the Gujarati duo planned to break the local economy and replace it with the Gujarati entrepreneurs.
The state BJP leaders even confide that leaders in Hindi-speaking states are also nursing the same feeling that the Gujarat leaders have been treating them like serfs. The state leaders have yet not forgotten that machination of Modi and Shah to push Gujarat-based industries in Karnataka and deny them the functional space. The worst sufferer has been the Karnataka Milk Federation, a dairy cooperative which sells products such as milk, curds, ghee, butter, ice cream, under the banner with Nandini.
It would be utopian to surmise that Karnataka will change the politics of the country. Even the BJP cannot hope to have a major impact on the southern states after formation of the new alliance. Whether it will impact the Karnataka voter is also not sure. In the 2023 Assembly elections, the Muslim votes largely went to the Congress. The JD(S) argument is that the Muslim votes are anyway not with them, so, they going to lose little by aligning with the BJP. They think that by aligning with the BJP, they can secure the benefit of an alliance. But this is a wrong notion. In future, they would be gobbled up by the Hindutva politics of RSS and BJP. Some experts even don’t feel that the BJP vote would be transferred to the JD(S) candidates in the Lok Sabha elections.
They argue: “The BJP, when it is in an alliance, has been successful in getting the ally’s vote transferred. But the ally has never been successful in getting the votes of the BJP transferred. So, the JD(S)’ hope that the alliance will vote in their favour can still be a question mark.” They look at the BJP with suspicion. They are sceptical of the BJP as it would marginalise the JD(S). The BJP has been pursuing this strategy across the country. Already a sharp erosion was witnessed in the JD(S) vote bank during the 2023 assembly election. This new alliance would further erode the JD(S) support base. With this new friendship the BJP will have an upper hand in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. It will gain at the cost of JD(S). 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. (IPA Service)