The Janata Dal (Secular), the regional party with a strong voter base in the Vokkaliga-dominated region, capitulated to its traditional rival the Congress in a crucial election that it was fighting to remain relevant in the State’s politics. In its worst performance in over two decades, not only has it ceded seats to the Congress in this election, but now stares at a bigger threat as the BJP has made inroads into its traditional pockets, seemingly at the cost of the regional player.
Overall, the number of seats of the JD(S), which was hoping to play the ‘kingmaker’ role, has seen a steep fall from 37 in 2018 to 19 in 2023. In the changing undercurrents, its vote share has dipped from 18.36% in 2018 to 13.3% in 2023. Its worst-ever performance was in 1999 with 10.42% votes share following the split of the Janata Dal into JD(S) and the Janata Dal (United). The party has faced the voter’s ire in its core area partly due to its legislators’ apathy and localised poll battles in some constituencies even as the Congress became the leading party in the perceived anti- incumbency and the price rise factors that are now seen to have worked against the BJP.
In all, against 28 seats that it won out of the 61 constituencies across 10 Vokkaliga-dominated districts in the Old Mysore region (except Bengaluru) riding on a perceived anti-Siddaramaiah wave in 2018 that is believed to have led to Vokkaliga consolidation, the party has managed to win just 14 seats in the region where it has a strong base. The Congress improved its tally to a whopping 39 seats while the BJP has been reduced to six seats in the region. Two seats went to Independents. A steep decline in margins where it has won has also got the JD(S) worried.
While several constituencies in Mandya saw an increased vote share by the BJP, which has improved since 2018, in at least three constituencies — Maddur, Srirangapatna, and Mandya, the saffron party’s performance seems to have dented the JD(S) chances. The party could retain only one seat in comparison to the clean sweep of seven it made in 2018 in Mandya. In contrast to winning six of the seven seats in Hassan, the party won four. It wrested one seat from the BJP, but ceded two to the saffron party and one to the Congress. Similarly, the party’s presence dropped from four seats to two seats each in Mysuru and Tumakuru — two important Vokkaliga districts. In Ramanagara district from where the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and his son, Nikhil Kumaraswamy, contested, the party’s strength dropped from three seats to one.
The defeat of Mr. Nikhil Kumaraswamy in Ramanagara — from where his grandfather H.D. Deve Gowda, father, and mother, Anitha Kumaraswamy, have won earlier — is learnt to have jolted the family as he faltered in the electoral battle for the second time.
The party’s multiple outreach to Muslims also seems to have failed as the community is believed to have consolidated strongly behind the Congress. Similarly, the consolidation of the Scheduled Caste groups and other backward classes along with Lingayats in the Vokkaliga-dominated constituencies seem to have hurt the party.