Karnataka: Rumour, Denial & An Election to Indicate Ground Reality

Statement by a JD(S) leader had sparked rumours of a merger between JD(S) and BJP in Karnataka.

3 min read
Congress’ DK Shivakumar, BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa and JD(S)’ HD Kumaraswamy.

A rumour in circulation in Karnataka’s political circles for months gained traction on Sunday, 20 December, when Janata Dal (Secular) leader Basavaraj Horatti said there were talks between the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the JD(S).

Talking to the media, he said: “Our leader Kumaraswamy has been in talks with the BJP. There have been discussions about seat-sharing with the BJP and also whether we should be part of the government or not. Presently, what can we do when Congress is hammering us every day? So, supporting BJP has become inevitable now.”

The statements sparked rumours of a merger between the rivals, which was later denied by both parties.

However, this development is expected to have an impact on the state’s politics, especially when 5,762 of Karnataka’s 6,004 gram panchayats are going to polls in December.

Both Parties Deny Rumors

HD Kumaraswamy (left) and BS Yeddyurappa (right)
HD Kumaraswamy (left) and BS Yeddyurappa (right)
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Reacting to the speculations, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in a statement in Bengaluru said: "JD(S) merging with BJP is a rumour and far from the truth. It's speculative. JD(S) is extending us issue-based support like removing legislative Council chairman Prathapchandra Shetty and the land reforms Bill."

JD(S) state president and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy also denied that his party was merging with the BJP and termed it a baseless rumour. "Speculative reports about our party merging with BJP are imaginary. At the most, we may extend issue-based support to the BJP if need be in the public interest. As a party of Kannadigas with self-esteem, we will never think of a political merger," said Kumaraswamy in a tweet.


The Politics Behind the Scene

According to sources in the BJP, Kumaraswamy had proposed a model like the JDU-BJP coalition in Bihar. While the regional party proposed a pre-poll alliance, the BJP was not in favour. The saffron party which wanted to increase its reach in southern Karnataka is said to have proposed a merger.

The BJP, according to sources, wanted to gain an upper hand in the Vokkaliga vote bank, and even promised Kumaraswamy the top post in the upcoming elections. The party, which is concerned that Lingayat votes are remaining with BS Yediyurappa rather than itself, was hoping to expand its base with the merger.

The discussions between the two parties are said to have helped the BJP get JD(S)’ support in passing the land reforms bill and in the move to replace the Legislative Council chairman. However, Kumaraswamy didn’t agree to the merger plans and the proposal is currently at a stalemate.


Local Poll Elections Will be an Indicator

Even as the state has been witnessing these political churnings, its impact on the ground remains unclear. However, on 22 and 27 December, 5,762 of Karnataka’s 6,004 gram panchayats will go to polls.

These polls are looked at parties as an indicator of the voter sentiment at a ground level.

“We will take utmost interest in the polls, though candidates will not face the election on party symbols. However, we want the candidates supported by us to win,” Chief Minister Yediyurappa had said about the polls.

For the JD(S), the polls are a chance to show their strength in southern Karnataka to increase its political bargaining power, while for the Congress, which recently lost the bypolls in the state, winning is crucial for morale.

In the 2016 local body polls, Congress-backed candidates had won a majority of the seats.

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