Janata Dal (Secular) leader CM Ibrahim added another plot twist Friday as the 2023 Karnataka Assembly election entered the home stretch. The JDS’ state boss invalidated comments made by Tanveer Ahmed – to broadcaster NDTV – that indicated the regional party had ‘taken a decision’ on whom to support after exit polls predicted a hung Assembly in the state. “He (Tanveer Ahmed) is not our spokesperson, and he is not a member of our party. He is nothing… he left us long back. We have not decided… will wait for results,” Ibrahim declared.
Hours earlier Ahmed set political tongues wagging after telling NDTV, “The decision is done. It’s taken. We will announce it to the public when it is the right time to.” He also claimed to have received tentative approaches from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Both the Congress and the BJP were quick to rebut this claim.
READ | Exit polls predict hung Assembly. ‘Kingmaker’ JDS ready for a deal but…
The Congress’ Karnataka chief DK Shivakumar told reporters today, “I do not know about JDS… let them take their own call” and “There are no chances of alliance with JDS” yesterday, and the BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje told NDTV today any coalition has been ruled out and that her party expects a clear majority.
Both parties denied reports they had contacted the JDS.
The Congress has been vocal about its chances in this election; senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said this afternoon the BJP had ‘accepted’ its defeat, although he did not elaborate. “I want to thank the 6.5 crore people of Karnataka who have voted for the Congress. Let us wait till tomorrow… till the results are out. BJP has admitted their defeat,” he told reporters.
READ | ‘BJP has accepted defeat’: Cong’ Randeep Surjewala on JDS deal talk
Most exit polls predict a hung Assembly with ABP News-CVoter, Republic-P-Marq, Zee News-Matrize and TV9-Bharatvarsh-Polstrat believing the Congress will emerge as the single-largest party but with fewer than the 113 seats needed to claim an outright win.
Asianet Suvarna News-Jan Ki Baat believes the BJP will be in a similar position.
Two exit polls – India Today-Axis My India and News24-Today’s Chanakya – give the Congress the outright win that Shivakumar and other leaders firmly believe is on the cards.
If the Congress and the BJP do, in fact, are closely matched in terms of numbers, the JDS will emerge as a ‘kingmaker’ – something which party boss and ex-chief minister HD Kumaraswamy referenced on voting day. “… our party (is) going to be ‘king’,”
The JDS is not expected to win more than 30 seats but those could prop up either the Congress or the BJP in what may be Karnataka’s fourth straight coalition government.
Kumaraswamy later told Deccan Herald, “I am still confident about JDS winning at least 50 seats (and) am ready to strike a coalition with a party which agrees to my terms.”
The JDS does have a history of supporting both parties.
In 2006 Kumaraswamy became chief minister for the first time after striking a deal with the BJP. And in 2018 he became CM for a second time after a post-poll deal with the Congress; that deal flopped a year later after rebel MLAs quit, joined the BJP and brought down his government.