Murfytown in Bangalore rural district is home to several Dalits and is buzzing with the activity of Bahujan Samaj Party volunteers. The Dalit-dominated areas dotting the Karnataka countryside have become the BSP’s theatres of action with plans being drawn up by party supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati sitting some two thousand miles away.
Would any of the Dalit party’s candidates enter the Karnataka assembly? At least 30, claims BSP state unit chief Marasandra Muniappa. “Nobody can form the government in the state without BSP support,” he said.
This time the BSP is contesting all the 224 seats and hopes to do well in at least 35 to 40 seats. Here too, the BSP is trying to form a coalition of castes and has fielded six Brahmins, five Lingayats, 10 Muslims, 15 Vokaliggas and six Dalit Christians for the first phase of the elections for 89 seats.
Claiming the strong support of a dominant Madiga caste among the Scheduled Castes and that of other castes, Muniappa claimed the BSP would get 12 to 15 per cent of the votes that translate to about 60 seats.
These are just pipe dreams, says AICC secretary Pavan Dawar. “Yes, in 2004 it damaged us in some 30 seats but this time we have minimised that (influence). Besides, the Dalit vote is not united at all. Even among the Dalit BSP voters, the youth are attracted to Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, as was witnessed during his recent visit to five districts of Karnataka,” he said. The BSP may have succeeded in UP but this is Karnataka. The caste and cultural equations in the state are very different, he said.
The Congress seems to have prepared for the BSP attack well in advance. KPCC president Mallikarjun Kharge, a senior Dalit leader, was dismissive of the potential BSP threat.
The BJP was even more dismissive. “In the outgoing assembly, the maximum number of Dalit MLAs were from the BJP,” was all that H.N. Ananthakumar, general secretary and former Union minister said.
But then why is the BSP passionately fighting a battle it will lose, even by their own expectation of 35-40 seats out of 224? Only to emerge as a key player in case of a hung assembly.