- A large part of Karnataka, 20% of its population, consists of Dalits
- Deve Gowda's JD(S) rushed to forge an early alliance with Mayawati
- Dalit divide in Karnataka broad-based between Chalavadis and Madigas
It wasn't served cold. In an election crammed with whodunit and so many reports of cross-voting that it was hard to keep up, Mayawati's sole candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh was defeated by the BJP.
There were 10 seats up for election. The BJP was guaranteed to win eight. The Samajwadi Party of Akhilesh Yadav had enough votes to get its one candidate through. For the final and tenth seat, it was Mayawati vs Amit Shah, who put up a ninth candidate for which the support of the BJP's allies - and some cross-voting - was required.
In Mayawati's defeat yesterday, Amit Shah hopes to rattle any plans for a long-term alliance between her and Akhilesh Yadav. If their understanding - still very fragile - holds, the BJP could lose a colossal amount of ground in UP where it won a sumptuous 72 of 80 seats in 2014.
The cross-border implications of yesterday's Rajya Sabha contest are immediate. Karnataka, for one, which is due for elections in less than two months. Mayawati will now strive to use her UP setback to impede the BJP's attempt to push the Congress off the electoral map by taking one of the only large states the party still holds.
This is why.
"Any party which wants to win Karnataka, whether it's the Congress, BJP or JD(S) will need a large chunk of the Scheduled Caste vote. This time, we have many options, and no one can take us for granted," says Anand Kuma, the principal of a government school in Hubbali in a Dalit-dominated neighbourhood. In UP, Mayawati's candidate for the Rajya Sabha was a Dalit, Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The fact the BJP ran an upper caste baniya candidate against him will be underscored by her party.
The Dalit divide in Karnataka is broad-based and largely between the Chalavadis, referred to as "Right Hand" and the Madigas or the "Left Hand". While the Chalavadis have traditionally been associated with the Congress, the Madigas drifted towards the BJP after the disintegration of the Janata Dal in the 1990s - it is this vote bank that Deve Gowda wants to recover with Mayawati's help. His party lost around 20 seats in last state election in 2013 by less than 5,000 votes. Even a small transfer of the BSP's Dalit votes could lead to substantial gains.
Mayawati's foray into Karnataka also threatens the incumbent Congress which draws its strength from AHINDA, a coalition of Alpasankhyataru or minorities, Hindulidavaru or backward classes, and Dalitaru or Dalits. While Siddaramaiah himself is from a shepherd community, the Congress has strong Dalit leaders in the state including state vice-president L Hanumanthaiah who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka today.
Deve Gowda and she aren't Relationship Goals, however. In the case of a hung assembly (predicted by two opinion polls), he is more likely to tie up with the BJP, given the personal animosity between his party president, HD Kumaraswamy, and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. If the BSP does manage to win a few seats, it is highly doubtful that Mayawati, combatting the BJP in in Uttar Pradesh, will be part of any such deal.
For now, though, her partner says her stock in Karnataka is high after the Gorakhpur defeat of Yogi Adityanath. "Yogi Adityanath is the star campaigner for the BJP in coastal Karnataka. But the people of the state don't subscribe to his communal and divisive agenda. They see Mayawati as a tough politician who grounded the high-flying Yogi," senior JD(S) leader Basavaraj Horatti told NDTV.
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