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Karnataka politics: Making sense of HD Deve Gowda and Mayawati's handshake

On Thursday, Janata Dal (Secular) and BSP announced a pre-poll alliance of the two parties for the Karnataka assembly polls. Karnataka assembly has 224-seats. The polls are scheduled for April-May.

Archis Mohan 

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP ) supremo Mayawati addressing supporters on the occasion of 126th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar at Ambedkar Memorial in Lucknow (Photo: PTI)

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has never had a pre-poll alliance with another political party ever since succeeded Kanshi Ram as the party chief in 2003. That is set to change during the Karnataka assembly polls in April-May, and could be a precursor to the willing to have an alliance with other parties in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

On Thursday, Janata Dal (Secular) and announced a pre-poll alliance of the two parties for the Karnataka assembly polls. Karnataka assembly has 224-seats. The polls are scheduled for April-May.

The agreement was jointly announced by general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra and (S) general secretary Kunwar Danish Ali. According to the agreement, will contest 20-seats and the (S) rest 204-seats.

will attend a public rally with (S) chief and former prime minister in Bengaluru on February 17 to officially begin the election campaign of the alliance, Ali said. Mishra said the alliance would continue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well. Mishra said the alliance was only for Karnataka, and not for UP. On whether this alliance could pave the way for entering into alliances in other parts of the country, including UP, Mishra said: "You would come to know if it happens."

Ali said and Deve Gowda had met in New Delhi on February 1 to finalise the agreement. Neither the nor (S) had attended the meeting of the opposition parties that UPA chairperson had convened in New Delhi that day. While Mishra hinted that the news of the alliance would influence UP politics as well, Ali indicated that the Dalits upset with the Congress would now have an option other than the BJP.

In the 2017 UP assembly polls, Mayawati-led had performed poorly, winning a mere 19-seats. While it maintained its core vote share, the had failed to find support from other caste groups. The BSP’s willingness to have a pre-poll alliance has much to do with its dipping fortunes in UP.

The and Samajwadi Party had an electoral alliance for the 1993 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. The two parties had formed a coalition government, but it had ended with the infamous ‘guest house’ incident in 1995. In 1996, and Congress had an alliance for that year’s UP assembly polls. The could win only 67 of the 296-seats it contested, while the Congress won 33 of the 126-seats it contested. The then UP assembly had 425-seats. The leadership had then concluded that it could successfully transfer its votes to Congress candidates, but the Congress couldn’t return the favour.

In Karnataka, the Dalits comprise 18 per cent of the electorate and are the most influential caste group, followed by the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. However, the Dalits are not a homogenous community, and consist of 101 castes, broadly categorized in five groups – touchables, or ‘right hand’ to signify they are touchables, untouchables, or Madigas and called ‘left hand’, Bovis, Lambanis and 97 other smaller groups.

The (S) is a party whose primary support base comprises the predominantly peasant Vokkaliga community. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is led by Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa, gets the support of that community and the upper castes. The Congress finds the support from ‘Ahinda’, which is a Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits.

In its heydays, the Janata Dal had reached out to the ‘left hand’ Dalits, realizing that the ‘right hand’ Dalits supported the Congress. After the Janata Dal disintegrated and (S) increasingly came to represent only the Vokkaligas, the ‘left hand’ Dalits went over to the BJP. The old Janata Dal could also count on the support of the backward Kuruba community, but its Kuruba leader Siddaramaiah left for the Congress and is currently the chief minister of the Congress government.

The Congress has a strong Dalit leadership in its state unit chief G Parameshwara and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. However, the (S) believes the Dalits are upset with that party as Siddaramaiah has worked to reduce the influence of Parameshwara and Kharge. It also hopes that an alliance with could help it recover the Dalit support base of the erstwhile Janata Dal.

The (S) has influence in the Mysuru region and adjoining districts. The has barely crossed two per cent vote share in its previous outings in the state. A legislator was elected in 1999.

The (S) and BJP each won 40-seats in 2013 assembly polls. The Congress formed the government with 124-seats. The (S) had 20.19 per cent vote share, the BJP 19.89 per cent and the Congress 36.59 per cent. Currently, the BJP has mounted a tough challenge on the back of its Hindutva plank to the Congress.

However, (S) claims it lost 20-seats by a margin of less than 5,000 votes in 2013. It hopes an alliance with the would bridge this gap and help it become the kingmaker if there is a hung assembly.

In the recently concluded Gujarat elections, the Congress had lost at least eight seats to the BJP with vote margins less than what the Nationalist Congress Party and candidates had received.

It remains to be seen if the JD(S)-alliance in Karnataka might end up hurting the Congress more than the BJP.

First Published: Fri, February 09 2018. 10:25 IST