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Discontentment brews among JD(S) leaders over possible tie-up with BJP

Bengaluru: Some Janata Dal (Secular) leaders have reportedly raised concerns over the party’s likely alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, according to people familiar with the matter.

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This development comes a day after JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda confirmed that his party has held discussions with BJP to form an alliance in the state for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

While a section of leaders in JD(S) is unhappy about the party joining hands with BJP, which brought down their coalition government in 2019, others are concerned about the party losing the Muslim vote base in the Old Mysuru Region.

JD(S)’ Gurmitkal MLA Sharanagouda Kandakur said that joining hands with the BJP will threaten the party’s future. “The Congress-JD(S) government was brought down by the BJP. In the 2023 elections, our party’s division of votes helped the BJP. Now, if we go with the BJP, what will be our political future tomorrow?” he said.

“We have followed the orders of the party’s leaders no matter what. Ultimately, when it comes to the field, the alliance with the BJP raises questions about our political existence. This question haunts all of our leaders,” Kandakur added.

In 2019, Kandakur was approached by the former chief minister BS Yediyurappa with a proposal seeking his father and then MLA Naganagouda Kandakur to join the BJP. Kandakur, however, recorded the conversation between him and Yediyurappa and made it public, causing major embarrassment to the BJP.

Another senior leader said that the decision would impact the party’s Muslim vote bank. In JD(S)’ blueprint ahead of the 2023 polls, Muslims featured prominently. The party made CM Ibrahim the party chief and even took a stand during the Hijab issue to appeal to Muslim voters.

“Congress’s rainbow coalition had swept the Muslim votes. Instead of gaining Muslim votes from them (Congress), we had lost our Muslim base to the Congress. But, we had a chance to reclaim it because the Congress has not done anything that it had promised, may it be rolling back the reservation taken away by the BJP or removing the ban on Hijab. We have lost the opportunity to consolidate that vote bank,” said a senior leader who requested anonymity.

Apart from the JD(S) loyalists, several former BJP legislators who joined the regional party too are worried about their future. MLAs Karyiamma from Devadurga and Hagribommanahallli MLA Nemraj Naik had joined the JD(S) from the BJP. “The leaders are concerned about the political future if the party joins hands with the BJP. They had faced severe opposition when they left the BJP, and now they fear vendetta,” said the above-mentioned leader.

According to experts results of the alliance will depend on vote transfer, however, BJP has a long term goal as well. “If you look at the history of such alliances in Karnataka, Lok Shakti and BJP had formed an alliance, which led to the Lingayat votes shifting to the BJP. In the case of 2019, BJP benefited by increasing its vote share,” said political analyst Sandeep Shastri.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP fought a united Congress-JD(S) combine and still won 25 seats out of 28 in the state and walked off with a 52% vote share. In 2014, BJP fought JD(S) and Congress separately, recording a vote share of 45%, against Congress bagging 41% and JD(S) only 9%.

“The BJP joining hands with the JD(S) is, in a way, the party conceding that it was no longer in the position that it was in 2019. With the alliance, they won’t be contesting more than 25 seats, and they have to sweep them all, which is unlikely. However, the BJP’s plan, according to me, is to marginalize the JD(S) by joining hands with them and making inroads into the Old Mysuru Region,” Shastri said.

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