Bangalore: As the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, prepares to fight assembly polls in three states ruled by it, it is also heading for by-elections in Karnataka that could unite its political rivals, the Congress party and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).

The eight Karnataka by-elections are critical for the BJP to increase its narrow majority in the assembly and cement its hold on its first state government in southern India.

Watchfulstance:Chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami. Subhav Shukla / PTI

In Karnataka, where the BJP won elections in May, seven of the seats going to the polls were vacated by Congress and JD(S) legislators who joined the BJP for ministerial berths and government appointments. The eighth seat, Maddur, fell vacant following the death of legislator M.S. Siddaraju last month.

“An alliance is very important if we are to fight the communal forces," said Y.S.V. Datta, a spokesman for JD(S), which is headed by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. “We know our limitations." Datta said that the party would make an offer to the Congress on an alliance soon.

“As and when it (a proposal) comes, I will discuss it with party colleagues and the high command," said R.V. Deshpande, president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee. The Congress and the JD(S) had shared votes to elect their representatives in Karnataka to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, in June, and are also talking about supporting each other in by-elections to three seats in the legislative council due on 31 October.

“They (JD(S) and Congress) are afraid of the BJP winning elections, and that’s why they are talking of an alliance," said V. Dhananjaya Kumar, BJP spokesman. “We are very confident of winning six out of the eight seats."

In the May elections, the BJP won 110 seats in the 224-member Karnataka assembly, with the Congress taking 80 and the JD(S), 28.