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Karnataka polls: Will JD-S be king or kingmaker amid battle of survival?

March 29, 2023 20:23 IST

Will the 2023 Karnataka assembly polls be a battle of political survival for former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal-Secular, or will the regional party once again emerge as a kingmaker, like it did in 2018, in the event of a hung assembly?

IMAGE: Former Karnataka Chief Minister and JD-S leader HD Kumaraswamy calls on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in Kolkata, March 24, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Political circles were abuzz with this debate before the past couple of elections, and this time is no different.

Plagued by desertions, internal rifts, and with the image of being a "family party", it remains to be seen how Gowda's son and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who is in a way single handedly managing the JD-S' affairs with his aging father taking the back seat, would steer the party in the May 10 assembly polls.


Since its formation in 1999, JD-S has never formed a government on its own, but had been in power twice in coalition with both national parties -- for 20 months with Bharatiya Janata Party from February 2006 and with Congress for 14 months after the May 2018 assembly polls- with Kumaraswamy as the chief minister.

This time the party has set an ambitious target of "mission 123" to form a government on its own by winning at least 123 out of total 224 seats, and has been seeking votes invoking regional Kannadiga pride and fueling a narrative that national parties -- the BJP and Congress -- fall short of serving interests of the state.

There are however doubts among some political observers and within a section of the party itself about JD-S meeting this target; the party's best ever performance so far has been in the 2004 assembly elections, when it won 58 seats, and 40 seats in 2013 was its second best.

The party's vote share is stagnant, if not shrinking. It has been ranging between 18-20 per cent, as the party has managed to continue its hold on to a sizeable number of constituencies, predominantly in the Vokkaliga belt of Old Mysuru region.

In the 2018 polls, JD-S won 37 seats.

Here is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of the JD-S.





Some political analysts note that the JD-S is still a force to reckon with and it's too early to write off the party which may again hold the key to power in case the Congress and the BJP fail to get a majority on their own.

In that scenario, the question on everybody's mind is: Will the JD-S be a kingmaker or the king (with Kumaraswamy CM).

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