Bengaluru: Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Thursday announced a pre-poll alliance in Karnataka, months before the state heads into elections. According to the arrangement, BSP will contest 20 of the 224 seats in the assembly elections.

The alliance comes at a time when all three major political parties—the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the JD(S)—have kick-started their campaigns in Karnataka.

The national leadership of both JD(S) and BSP will launch the joint campaign at a public meeting to be held at Bengaluru on 17 February, JD(S) said in a statement on Thursday.

The JD(S) won just 40 of the 224 seats in 2013, and a tie-up with BSP as well as Left parties could help it secure a few more in constituencies where it came a close second.

The BSP contested 175 seats in 2013, winning none and accounting for less than one percent of the vote share.

JD(S), on the other hand, lost many seats by a small margin due to fragmented votes that it hopes will be brought back by aligning with the BSP.

While many believe the main fight will be between the ruling Congress and its principal rival the BJP, the JD(S) is leaving little to chance to boost its own campaign and bargaining power if a fractured mandate is delivered.

Though the BJP and Congress have both rejected the possibility of pre-poll alliances, the JD(S) has played kingmaker on many occasions. In 2004, the Congress formed a government with the support of JD(S), which later withdrew support in favour of the BJP. The JD(S) formed an alliance with the Congress in 2015 to keep the BJP out of Bengaluru’s civic body. JD(S) also has an alliance with the BJP in the Karnataka legislative council, thus remaining accessible to both national parties in the absence of a clear mandate.

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