Caste is a socio-political reality in India. In my opinion, it has been acknowledged more in politics than in society. Every political party’s public posturing takes a stance against the idea of casteism, but often, their action indicates completely the opposite, especially during elections. So much so, that in current times, it feels that the issue of caste exists more in the political realm than in the new socio-economic order of the society. Moreover, every political party has successfully learnt the science of distributing tickets according to the caste demography of the constituencies.
So, it’s natural for all the political parties contesting in the Karnataka election to accommodate caste groups. The Congress is hoping for a victory with its ‘OBC face’ Siddaramaiah, and by giving the minority status to the Lingayat community. However, it is becoming clear that the Congress is not really confident of its core constituency – and hence, it is more dependent on the division of Lingayat vote. It is now hoping that the OBC and other minority communities will support its bid, and that the division in the Lingayat’s vote will ensure its victory. Of late, it has also started talking about the Dalits and the issue of their representation. However, there have been no visible, substantial offers for Dalits from their end.
On the other hand, the BJP has announced its chief ministerial candidate, B S Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the Lingayat community. The BJP also believe that its core Hindutva bloc will back its bid this time as well. It is also advancing the idea of giving deputy CM post to a person from the tribal community which has a strong presence in the state. But, the state unit is also suffering from the anti-incumbency of the central government – and this will make things very interesting in the upcoming election.
It’s also intriguing that one more party, the Janata Dal (Secular), is also in the fray. In fact, it had quite a presence in the last Karnataka state assembly election. Besides, it’s the same party which had given a prime minister to this country. This time, the JD(S) has formed an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has also decided to back the JD(S).
Dalits have a significant presence in the state. As the JD(S) and the BSP now have an electoral alliance in a state where both OBC and SC communities have a significant share, this alliance alone can change all the equations of this election. Relevantly enough, the caste sentiment is quite high after the SC judgement on the SC/ST Act and the Bharat Bandh.
Contrary to the Congress’ and the BJP’s tactics, the JD(S)-BSP alliance is basking on its strengths, rather than focussing on the others’ weaknesses.
Unlike other parties, JD(S) is sharing its goodwill not only in the OBC pocket but also among the Dalits. By striking an alliance with BSP, JD(S) has strengthened its presence in the marginalised sections. The mass appeal the of ex-Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and the hopes of the BSP’s revival are the key factors in the Karnataka election this time.
We have seen in the recent UP bypolls how an effective alliance between the OBC and Dalit communities can outperform a sitting government. Personally, I hope to see a re-occurrence of the earlier formula, in this southern state which is going to vote in the second week of May, at a time when the country’s identity politics is gaining momentum.
In politics, you cannot dismiss anyone on any day – because in politics, the most certain thing is uncertainty.