Deve Gowda feels JD(S) will be kingmaker in Karnataka and will call the shots post elections. To bolster its prospects, the party has entered into an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP. Party is eyeing 36 reserved seats for Scheduled Caste category. JD(S) had won 10 of these in 2013 state elections. In 6 seats it finished runner up. Out of this in 3 seats it lost by less than 700 votes. Overall it lost 14 seats by margin of less than 5,000 votes where BSP support can make a difference, party strategists feel.
Mayawati will attend a public rally with Gowda in Bengaluru on Feb. 17 to officially launch the election campaign of the alliance. The alliance would continue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well, however it is restricted to Karnataka. BSP will be contesting 20 seats and JD(S) 204 seats.
Dalits (SCs) account for 17% of population and are the largest caste block in the state. JD(S) had received 13% support of the community in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Dalits have been traditional supporters of Congress in the state (51% in 2008 elections where BJP won). BSP usually is able to transfer votes to alliance partners as it has dedicated vote bank. In 1996, BSP and Congress had an alliance for UP assembly polls. While BSP’s tally didnt increase, Congress won 33 (+5) of the 126-seats it contested. BSP’s best performance was in 2008 elections where it bagged 2.7% vote share. Its influence is in 15-20 odd seats.
Mayawati wants to spoil BJP’s party in Karnataka after humiliation in UP. However, it remains to be seen effective she is in the state. Gowda is smelling of a hung assembly situation in the state as predicted by C-Voter. Then the 20-25 seats party is expected to win will play a crucial role. In a triangular contest 2%-3% vote share is not bad.
It remains to be seen this alliance makes a bigger dent into Dalit vote bank of which party – BJP or Congress.