BJP attempts to repair its southern gateway: JD(S) joins BJP-led NDA

According to sources, talks between the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party have progressed, which actor Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party has aided



Archis Mohan New Delhi

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On 13 May 2023, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its 'gateway to southern India', Karnataka, its only government in the five big southern states. It had Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge declare that those who wanted 'Congress Mukt Bharat' ended up facing 'BJP Mukt Dakshin Bharat'. In the last four months, the BJP has tried repairing its frayed relations with its existing allies and reaching out to potential ones in southern India, and on Friday, inducted Karnataka-based Janata Dal (Secular) into the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

According to sources, talks between the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party have progressed, which actor Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party has aided. Sources claimed there were efforts to salvage the BJP and AIADMK alliance in Tamil Nadu, ironing out the recent rough spots, while the party would go it alone in Telangana. The BJP believes its alliance with the JD(S) could strengthen its foray into the Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysuru region. While the two parties have not announced their seat-sharing details, BJP sources claimed JD(S) could contest four of the 28 seats. The JD(S) had demanded five.

Thursday's Rajya Sabha debate on the Women's Reservation Bill indicated that the BJP-JD(S) alliance talks were sealed, and that the AIADMK would continue to support the Narendra Modi government with its leader, M Thambidurai, reiterating that his party stood with the NDA.

In the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, BJP chief JP Nadda claimed his party gave India its first Other Backward Caste (OBC) Prime Minister in Narendra Modi. When the Opposition protested, pointing out that the Janata Dal's HD Deve Gowda, currently a member of the House, and not Modi, was the country's first OBC Prime Minister, Nadda retorted, "Deve Gowda ji is ours". Nadda said his reference was to the Congress's failure to give an OBC Prime Minister.

A day later, on Friday afternoon, Nadda posted pictures of his meeting with Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, a former Karnataka chief minister and Deve Gowda's son, along with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. "I am happy that the JD(S) has decided to be part of the NDA. We wholeheartedly welcome them into the NDA. This will further strengthen the NDA and the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a 'new India, strong India'."

Shah posted that the association of JD(S) with the NDA "will lead Karnataka on the path of development and pave the way for a stronger NDA and India". Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who played a crucial role in knitting the alliance, also attended the meeting, discussing strategies to counter a Congress reinvigorated in the state after its comprehensive May 2023 Assembly polls triumph.

The alliance had been in the works ever since the Karnataka Assembly polls defeat of the JD(S) and BJP. Earlier this month, former chief minister BS Yediyurappa said the seat adjustment had been sealed, and the JD(S) would contest four of the 28 seats in the state in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The JD(S) wanted to contest five, including Mandya, Hassan, Tumakuru, Chikballapur and Bengaluru Rural. The BJP at the time was willing to concede Kolar, Hassan, Mandya and Bengaluru Rural. BJP sources said that the JD(S) has agreed to settle for four seats.

The JD(S) secured a 13.3 per cent vote share in May 2023, its worst since the 1999 Assembly polls, when it bagged 10.42 per cent, which it contested in the aftermath of the collapse of the Janata Dal government after a split in the party. Ramkrishna Hegde-led Janata Dal (United), which allied with the BJP, competed with the Deve Gowda-led JD(S) for the party's support base. While the BJP maintained its 2018 vote share of 36 per cent in 2023, it lost seats to the Congress even in some of its Lingayat strongholds and dropped 38 seats from the 104 it won five years back.

The JD(S) and the BJP lessons were nearly identical. The JD(S), a party led and supported by Vokkaligas, saw a significant loss of its minority votes in its Old Mysuru bastion. The BJP discovered that it was no match for the Congress and the JD(S) in Old Mysuru, and a BJP-JD(S) alliance would benefit both.

The JD(S) contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the Congress, as the two parties were then running a coalition government led by Kumaraswamy.

First Published: Sep 22 2023 | 7:46 PM IST

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