Despite losing support due to its past dalliance with BJP, JD(S) again faces allegations of a secret pact with the saffron party

The Janata Dal (Secular), out of power for the last five years, and therefore trying hard to reverse its fortunes in these elections, is grappling with two existential dilemmas. The first is the strong public suspicion that the party is trying once again to strike a backroom deal with the Bharatiya Janata Party in order to best the Congress, and the second is that it is a party that represents the interests of the Vokkaligas, and is therefore confined to the Old Mysore region of the State.

Former Prime Minister and the party’s elder statesman H.D. Deve Gowda categorically refutes the misconceptions about his party and blames the Congress for what he calls a “misinformation” campaign.

Meeting Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar “five times” on the Cauvery issue is being misinterpreted, he notes.

It was probably to allay these “canards,” as Mr. Gowda calls them, that the party started its campaign with separate conventions for different sections of the electorate – women, minorities, backward classes, Dalits, and even the physically disabled. It is also perhaps why the party was the first to release its candidate lists and issue separate manifestos for the urban and rural electorates.

H.D. Kumaraswamy, former Chief Minister, has been heli-hopping through 120 constituencies in the Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions for campaigning. He said that the JD(S) would “shed its image” of a party restricted to the old Mysore region.

Unlike the Congress that has emerged as the likely beneficiary of the anti-incumbency factor, the JD(S) is a secular third force that has to live down its past of compromising with the BJP. Additionally, it now has the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) headed by former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa as a competitor for what is called the role of the “kingmaker” (when in a hung Assembly a small party’s role becomes decisive). With his characteristic confidence, Mr. Gowda said that his party would be “king”, not “kingmaker” this time round.

More realistically though, the JD(S) has changed its poll strategy after its poor performance in the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls in the old Mysore region — considered its bastion. It is now accommodating political ‘migrants’ i.e., those denied tickets by other parties.

This has resulted in “rebel” candidates contesting at least in nine constituencies. Mr. Gowda had to personally intervene to douse discontentment in some constituencies.

The JD(S) patriarch is briskly campaigning in south and central Karnataka in an automobile specially designed for his comfort and age.

Leaders M.C. Nanaiah and Basavaraj Horatti are also on the campaign trail, and evidently the party has become unusually savvy about using all channels – websites, Twitter and Facebook, Youtube, jingles on FM radio – to reach out to all.

More In: Karnataka | National