Large gains from a small accretion

Print edition : June 08, 2018

JD (S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda, BSP supremo Mayawati, JD(S) State president H.D. Kumaraswamy at a rally in Mysuru on April 25. Photo: M.A. SRIRAM

The electoral understanding reached with the Bahujan Samaj Party helps the Janata Dal (Secular) win seats outside its comfort zone of the Old Mysuru region.

In politics, what may appear to be inconsequential at first glance may actually turn out to be significant. The decision of the Janata Dal (Secular) to forge a pre-election alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is a good example of this. After all, what could the JD(S) have hoped to gain by allying itself with a party that has only a minuscule base in Karnataka? But, it is clear from the Assembly election results that the regional party did indeed gain from such an alliance. While it is true that the BSP may not have been able to swing the Dalit vote en bloc in favour of the JD(S), the latter benefited disproportionately from the marginal swing in a three-way contest.

The JD(S)-BSP electoral understanding undoubtedly had an impact on the fortunes of the Congress, particularly in the Old Mysuru region, considered a bastion of Siddaramaiah.

JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda’s electoral understanding with the BSP and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen was aimed at attracting Dalit and Muslim votes. This was based on the logic that even a marginal accretion of these sections would bring the party rich dividends. The JD(S) leader recalled that in the 2013 Assembly elections, the party lost several seats by a narrow margin of a few hundred votes. The BSP, which contested in 173 seats in 2013, agreed to contest only 20 seats this time. The number was reduced further to 18, of which 16 were reserved constituencies.

It is also clear that the alliance with the BSP enabled the JD(S), whose clout is concentrated in compact pockets of the State, especially the Old Mysuru region, to extend its reach to other regions. The party not only did well in the Old Mysuru region to the consternation of the Congress, it improved its strength in the Bombay-Karnatak area as well. In 2013, the party won one seat (Navalgund) there. This time it won two (Nagathan and Sindhagi) but lost Navalgund. Similarly, in the Hyderabad-Karnatak region, where the presence of Dalits is significant, the JD(S) won four seats.

BSP chief Mayawati addressed election rallies in Bidar and Belagavi. The BSP’s State general secretary, M. Krishnamurthy, said: “Nobody can ignore the BSP factor in the victory of Bandeppa Kashempur [of the JD (S)] in Bidar South as in the case of other seats [won by the alliance partner] in northern Karnataka.”

The JD(S) won one seat each in Bidar and Yadagiri districts and two each in Vijayapura and Raichur districts, outside the Old Mysuru region.

The JD(S), which has a strong support base in the Vokkaliga-dominated Hassan, Mandya, Mysuru and Ramanagara districts, did not allow the BSP to enter its fort. The alliance was worked out after talks between senior leaders of the two parties; as a result, workers at the grass roots felt chagrined. One of the reasons for their unhappiness was that the alliance came about in spite of the fact that the BSP and its student wing, the Bahujan Vidyarthi Sangha, had been fighting against atrocities by members of the Vokkaliga community against Dalits.

In 2015, BSP leaders criticised Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Revanna for their stand on the issue of barring the entry of Dalits into the Basaveshwara temple at Sigaranahalli in Hassan. The upper-caste people had imposed a penalty on four Dalit women for entering the temple. Revanna and Deve Gowda, who represent Holenarasipur and Hassan in the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha respectively, stood by the Vokkaligas. The issue is ongoing as upper-caste people have boycotted the temple saying that it had lost its sanctity following the entry of Dalits.

Workers of the BSP were also upset by the fact that the bigger alliance partner did not let their party contest in some constituencies. Steven Prakash, the party’s general secretary in Hassan, said: “Take the example of Sakleshpur in Hassan district, where we have been contesting since 1994. We have been protesting against the JD(S)’ Sakleshpur MLA, H.K. Kumaraswamy, all these years, but the alliance forced us to campaign for him in this election.” The BSP candidate secured 17,174 votes in the 2004 elections. But the JD(S) won the seat three times in a row and so did not want to give up the seat. Similarly, BSP’s M. Krishnamurthy had nurtured the Malavalli (reserved) constituency in Mandya district, but the BSP was not allowed to contest from there. (JD(S) candidate, Dr K. Annadani won the seat.)

Initially, after the alliance was struck, BSP supporters were hesitant to work for JD(S) candidates. “When senior party leaders heard about our position they spoke to us and convinced us to work for the alliance saying that it was the leadership’s decision,” said Steven Prakash.

Mayawati held rallies along with Deve Gowda and his son and JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy in Mysuru, Kolar, Bidar, Belgaum and Chitradurga. The response to the combined rally in Mysuru was poor. There were hardly any JD(S) supporters at the rally. Deve Gowda owned responsibility for the poor attendance. The response from party cadres was good in other areas. JD(S) leaders announced that the electoral understanding would continue for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well. H.D. Kumaraswamy said the JD(S) would support Mayawati for the Prime Minister’s post.

BSP wins Kollegal

The BSP won one seat, Kollegal (reserved) constituency in Chamarajanagar district, after 24 years. N. Mahesh, who has been contesting every election from Kollegal since 2004 after opting for voluntary retirement from government service, succeeded in his fourth attempt.

Krishnamurthy told Frontline: “The JD(S) had no strong base in Kollegal. We were hoping to win the seat, even if there was no alliance. But, I would not like to say the JD(S) had no role at all in our victory.”

He is of the opinion that the alliance was beneficial to JD(S) candidates in nearly 10 seats, including Belur in Hassan district, Malavalli, Srirangapatna and Nagamangala in Mandya district, Chamundeshwari in Mysuru district where incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was defeated by G.T. Deve Gowda and in Bidar South.

“JD(S) candidates have defeated Congress candidates, including Siddaramaiah, with huge margins. The BSP factor played a prominent role in this,” he said.

Voters’ response to BSP candidates in other constituencies was not encouraging. The BSP’s State coordinator M. Muniyappa secured only 1,384 votes in Bidar. The party made its first foray into the Karnataka Assembly by winning the Bidar seat in 1994. BSP candidates secured fewer than 1,000 votes in five seats. “We were asked to contest in Sullia in Dakshina Kannada district, where we did not have grass-roots workers at all. Our candidates fought in places where neither the JD(S) nor the BSP had a base,” a party leader said.

The JD(S) seems to have benefited from the BSP’s support in parts of Hassan, Mandya and Mysuru districts. In Sakleshpur, H.K. Kumaraswamy, who had won by a margin of 33,069 votes in 2013, faced a tough fight from the BJP and the Congress. This time he won by a margin of 5,942 votes.

“We have more than 12,000 party members in the constituency. Our support helped the JD(S) win a tough contest in Sakleshpur,” Steven Prakash, who campaigned for the JD(S), said.

Satish G.T.



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