Amid speculation that the opposition JD(S) could merge with the ruling BJP in Karnataka, leaders of both parties – H D Kumaraswamy and Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa — on Monday said there is no question of such a move. Former CM Kumaraswamy however, did indicate that his party is willing to extend “issue-based support” to the BJP.
Speculation of a merger arose following meetings between the two leaders amid reports of unhappiness among JD(S) ranks. Kumaraswamy has also stated recently that he would have been in a better political situation if he had allied with the BJP rather than the Congress after the 2018 Assembly polls threw up a hung verdict and a Congress-JD(S) coalition came to power — Kumaraswamy was given the Chief Minister’s post despite being the partner with fewer seats in the coalition. His government collapsed in 14 months after 15 legislators of the combine resigned.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Yediyurappa said: “JD (S) is a party built by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda and former CM Kumaraswamy is its leader. Talking about its merger with another party is insulting to them.”
Yediyurappa said he had asked BJP leaders not to fuel rumours of such a merger.
Why BJP is keen on close ties with JD(S)
The BJP is keen to win the support of the JD(S) to gain control of the Karnataka Legislative Council where the Congress-JD(S) combine has been effective in blocking some new legislation in the labor and agriculture sectors. The saffron party also needs support in the Council to pass a new law to ban all forms of cattle slaughter in the state. Moreover, the support bases of the JD(S) and the BJP lie in two distinct regions of Karnataka — the JD(S) has a base among the dominant Vokkaliga community in southern Karnataka and the BJP in the Lingayat community, dominant in north Karnataka. Talk of a merger comes at a time when the BJP has been making inroads into JD(S) territory.
Earlier, Kumaraswamy also denied the rumours: “The Janata Dal (S), which is a party of Kannadigas with self esteem, will never think of political merger. The party, which is a strong voice of the people, will never display such stupidity. At the most, we may extend issue-based support to the BJP, if need be,” he said.
“I want to clarify that for the JD(S), the situation of committing suicide by merging itself with another party has not come. I don’t foresee such a situation gripping us in the future too,” he added.
“We would not have formed the government with the Congress (in 2018) if we were the BJP’s B team. There is no tacit understanding with the BJP, as being alleged by the Congress. Only an issue-based understanding is possible. All reports of a political merger are imaginary,” Kumaraswamy said.
The JD (S) and BJP were in a coalition government between 2006-07, but fell out after the JD (S) failed to transfer power to the BJP and Yediyurappa at the end of a 20-month term.
Currently, the JD (S) currently has 33 MLAs in the 224-member state Assembly while the BJP has 120 and the Congress 67. Two seats are held by other parties while two seats remain vacant.