Often derided as Appa Makala Paksha (father and sons party) or a Vokkaliga party because of its heavy reliance on the votes of Karnatakas second-largest community, the Janata Dal (Secular) is now in a position to decide who rules Karnataka. The JD(S) in its current avatar is a breakaway faction of the original Janata Party which has ruled Karnataka in the past. In 1999, former prime minister Deve Gowda decided to form his own faction and adopted the label of Secular to differentiate from other rumps of the Janata Party.
he JD(S) is primarily seen as a force in southern Karnataka which is the Old Mysuru region comprised of the districts of Mysuru, Chamrajanagara, Mandya, Hassan, Tumakuru, Bengaluru, Kolar and Chitradurga districts. The JD(S) has won 32 of its 38 seats from this region. It has negligible presence in northern Karnataka, coastal Karnataka and central parts of the state.
After the last Janata Party government of JH Patel lost power to the Congress, the Janata Parivar which was earlier a big tent that included all castes, communities, regions and religions, was isolated to the Vokkaliga belt. Under the JD(S) in 2004, it again became the fulcrum of Karnataka politics by winning 58 seats in a hung house. It entered into an alliance with the Congress in 2004, only to see HD Kumaraswamy, the son of Deve Gowda, walk away with the bulk of MLAs to form an alliance with the BJP and become chief minister. After going back on his promise to transfer power to the BJP, it went in for early elections, this time only to see the saffron party form a government of its own riding on a wave of sympathy due to the JD(S)s “betrayal”.
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In 2013, the Congress got a full majority, which meant the JD(S) had no role to play. In between, Siddaramaiah, a former close aide of Deve Gowda who had been made deputy CM in an earlier coalition with the Congress, had a fight with the Gowda family and left.
He subsequently joined the Congress and became chief minister. The JD(S) repeatedly accused its former member of trying to destroy the party.
For the 2018 polls, the JD(S) tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Owaisis AIMIM. Now again, with a hung house, the JD(S), which kept insisting that it would become the king and not the kingmaker, has seen its dream come true as the Congress has extended unconditional support for government formation under Kumaraswamys chief ministership to keep the BJP out of power.
For a player with a mere 38 seats, or 15% of the assembly, under its control, the JD(S) today is in a sweet spot of realising its dream of coming to power in the state. While the Congress and the JD(S) have together staked claim to form a government, Deve Gowda is known for his political acumen will be keeping all options open, with an eye on the 2019 general elections. After all, he became prime minister with just 17 MPs from Karnataka.