The Karnataka election results are still pouring in but the direction is clear. Congress has lost, BJP has won, and JD(S) has seemingly exceeded expectations. The numbers are yet to be frozen, as counting is still on and there many seats with slender margins, giving a continuous slight fluctuation in the figures. This fluctuation matters because BJP s within touching distance of achieving a simple majority by gaining 112 seats. And as a corollary so is a possible combination of Congress + JD(S).
But whatever might be the final outcome, i.e. even if BJP is large enough to form a government in Karnataka in its own, it would be in the best interest of both BJP and JD(S) to come together.
Reasons for the BJP:
1. Set the stage for 2019
One of the worries amongst BJP fan base is that while the BJP is losing allies (like TDP), the opposition is looking to weave a mahagathbandhan to beat BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. As vote shares indicate, if a simple transfer of votes is achieved by a combined opposition, BJP could find it hard to come back to power in the centre.
To break the chances of such a rainbow coalition, BJP must ally itself with as many small regional parties as possible. JD(S) is just one of them. If BJP allies with JD(S) at the state, it would ensure a national coalition as well and prevent a string non-BJP front emerging in Karnataka. In fact, a BJP+JD(S) tie-up could sweep Karnataka in 2019
2. Message to other former allies
If BJP manages to pull JD(S), the price tag on some former allies and some future potential allies reduces. The likes of TDP can be told unequivocally that the BJP does not need to depend on only a small set of allies and is widening its outreach to others as well.
3. Congress out of picture, morale boost
With JD(S) in the saddle, BJP can be sure that there is no large Congress Government in the country. Punjab would remain the only mid-size state for Congress. The Congress coffers would then be choked heavily, leaving it gasping for funds in 2019. It would also be a huge morale boost for national cadre, that the BJP has “saffronized” another state, albeit with some help.
Reasons for the JD(S)
1. Usurping the Congress space
While the Congress may (and reportedly has) offered JD(S) the post of Chief Minister in a potential coalition, the JD(S) should realise that the Congress is the natural enemy of the JD(S) in Karnataka. Both parties try to occupy the same space. Thus, it would be a better long-term bet for JD(S) to be in power with the BJP, and try to use the next five years to finish the Congress in Karnataka, both politically and financially. Then JD(S) can dream of emerging as the sole serious opposition in 2023 to the BJP.
2. Keeping the verdict in mind
The JD(S) would do well to learn from the exploits of local parties in Goa, who went against the mandate, and allied with BJP even when they had got lesser seats than Congress. This move has reportedly angered voters and the local parties are losing favour. If JD(S) chooses Congress it may face a similar fate. An alliance with BJP though would have the opposite effect
3. Gain from the state-central synergy
The BJP-JD(S) Government in Karnataka would be able to enjoy (although for barely a year), the benefit of being on the right side of the central government. Modi too would be keen to pump in maximum resources in 1 year in Karnataka to tilt the scales of 2019. The JD(S) can then benefit from this and ensure that their constituencies are developed and their MLAs who have been “hungry” for a decade, are “well-fed”
4. National gains
If the JD(S) carries its alliance into 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and if the BJP wins (which is more likely than a Congress win as of now), it is sure to be rewarded with some Central ministries as well.
All in all, it would make sense for both BJP and JD(S) to ally, irrespective of the actual numbers. Who knows, Amit Shah and the JD(S) supremos may have already discussed this. Only time will tell how this plays out.