Bengaluru: The approaching presidential polls have once again put the spotlight on which way the Janata Dal (Secular) will vote in Karnataka. In the only southern state where the national parties, BJP and Congress are directly ranged against each other, the JD(S) has occasionally emerged as a kingmaker.
Over time, the party founded and headed by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, has largely remained confined to Karnataka. During this period, it has separately formed government in the state with either of these national parties on different occasions. Currently, with the BJP enjoying a comfortable majority in the 224 seat Assembly, the JD(S) with 32 seats is biding its time till the elections due early next year.
Although the 2022 presidential polls are not exactly a challenge for the BJP-led NDA, the votes of neutral parties like the BJD in Odisha, and the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh will prove crucial for them this time.
Unlike these parties, the Janata Dal(S) is a marginal player with limited scope for bargaining. Political analyst Ramakrishna Upadhya feels that that the JD(S) may use the presidential polls to send out their messaging to the general electorate.
“It will be about posturing. They may try to say we are against the BJP. We are for the Muslims and secularism. They could even vote with the other group too. With Assembly elections due soon, they will try to set themselves apart from the BJP. They may play their cards but it won’t have an impact on the final outcome of the presidential polls”.
As far as Lok Sabha votes are concerned, the BJP is firmly in the driver’s seat, with 25 of the 28 seats in its kitty. It can also bank on the vote of the sole independent candidate, actor Sumalatha who is the wife of late Ambareesh. The remaining two seats are with the Congress and Janata Dal (S).
In the Assembly, the ruling BJP has 122 seats, followed by the Congress with 69 seats, and the JD(S) with 32. With each vote valued at 131, the JD(S) doesn’t compare to the combined vote value of 75,528 that BJD and YSRCP bring.
In Karnataka, the BJP and JD(S) are currently sworn rivals. Although party supremo Deve Gowda is known to enjoy a cordial equation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the compulsions of state politics may not allow the JD(S) to extend a helping hand to the BJP in these presidential elections.
Firstly, with Assembly elections due in less than a year’s time, the Janata Dal (S) will be in no mood to disturb it’s secular credentials. Especially since it has been trying to nudge out the Congress from its position as voice of the minorities. The recent past has seen a number of anti-Muslim developments taking place in Karnataka. While the Congress remained silent, it was the JD(S) that raised its voice over targeting of Muslims by pro-Hindu organisations and several BJP leaders.
“Theirs is a small shop. They will be content with bagging around 30 seats in the next Assembly elections. The JD(S )will focus on remaining relevant in the state. That’s their main focus,” Upadhya explains.
In an apparent bid to further seal its pro-Muslim credentials, the party has recently appointed C.M. Ibrahim as its Karnataka president.
For the moment, the Congress too doesn’t seem too keen on an alliance with the JD(S). It all fits in neatly with the political players’ plans for Assembly elections to be played out in a year’s time.
Pointing to the animosity between the JD(S) and his party in Karnataka, a senior Congress leader from the state ruled out any truck between the two parties for the presidential polls. “Anyways it’s a national issue and the national leadership will take a call on this matter at the right time,” he said.
With all the three parties keen on the state Assembly elections, voting for the presidential polls is not expected to throw up any surprises. Incidentally, in 2007 presidential polls, as partners in the BJP government in Karnataka, the JD(S) had abstained from voting at the last moment despite BJP pleas. This time around, it may well adopt the same strategy to help the BJP.