BSP leader Mayawati and JDS leader HD Devegowda 
Politics

Will JDS-BSP Alliance End Prospect of a BJP-JDS Tie Up in K’taka?

The pre-poll alliance between the Janata Dal Secular (JD(S)) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has created a noteworthy third front in Karnataka ahead of the Assembly elections. Mayawati will join former prime minister HD Devegowda in a massive rally on 17 February, as part of the alliance.

As per the terms of the alliance, the BSP would contest from 20 seats in Karnataka, while the JD(S) would contest in the rest of the seats.

While the Devegowda-headed party is hoping to tap into the Dalit vote bank, which accounts for close to 18 percent of Karnataka’s electorate, the BSP hopes to register their first win in Karnataka elections with the help of the JD(S).

However, more than what affect the alliance could have on the electoral results, the bigger question is whether the JD(S) joining hand with BSP will bring an end to possibilities of a JD(S)-BJP tie up.

Mayawati Won’t Allow Coalition With BJP

BSP supremo Mayawati.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the BSP are arch rivals in Uttar Pradesh. According to the BSP, the party workers in the state and Centre will never support the BJP.

Even the JD(S) leaders agree that Mayawati, who is hoping to return to power in Uttar Pradesh, will not risk upsetting her Dalit voters in Uttar Pradesh by supporting a coalition between her ally in Karnataka and the BJP.

However, according to experts, despite the stern stand of the BSP, a JD(S)-BJP coalition is still a possibility. Pre-poll surveys have suggested that no party will be get a clear majority in Karnataka and the state will see another hung government. In such a scenario, the JD(S) will become the kingmaker and would want to keep their options open.

“Although the real intention behind the coalition is unknown, there is a possibility that JD(S) could break the alliance with the BSP after the polls to join hands with the BJP,” said A Narayana, associate professor, political philosophy, Azim Premji University.

JD(S)’s Past Makes Them an Unreliable Ally

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy is one of the chief ministerial candidates in the state. 

In 2006, following Assembly elections in Karnataka, no political party won a clear majority. The JD(S) then agreed to tip up with the BJP to form the government. As part of a power-sharing agreement, JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy was to leave the post of chief minister on 3 October 2007. But when the time came, he refused.

This forced BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa and all the ministers to withdrew support to the Kumaraswamy government. Karnataka was put under President's rule, which was revoked on 7 November that year after the JD(S) and the BJP decided to continue with the alliance and make Yeddyurappa the chief minister.

Yeddyurappa was sworn in on 12 November 2007 as the chief minister of Karnataka, and he remained in the post for seven days, as the JD(S) withdrew its support.

BSP’s Gain From the Alliance

The BSP has a diminishing vote share in the state. In 2004, the BSP got 1.74 percent of the vote share in Karnataka, but by the 2008 elections, they increased their vote share to 2.74 percent. By 2013, the vote share fell to 0.91percent.

The BSP has not won a single seat in the state so far.

As part of the alliance, the BSP will field their candidates from 20 constituencies. These are constituencies where the BSP was ahead of the JD(S) in the 2013 elections.

For example, in Kollegal, where the winner was the Congress candidate, S Jayanna, who secured 46,889 votes, the runners-up was a BSP candidate, N Mahesh, who got 36,766 votes. The JD(S) received 4,369 votes.

The BSP, however, didn’t have such a large vote share in all the constituencies. However, with the hope of both parties increasing theirs and the consolidation of the JD(S) votes in these 20 constituencies, the BSP expects to win in some of these 20 constituencies.

What JD(S) Could Gain From the Alliance

The alliance with the BSP is JD(S)’s attempt to tap into the Dalit votes in the state. More than a large transfer of votes, the JD(S) is hoping to get smaller number of votes won by the BSP.

A closer look at some of the constituencies where JD(S) lost by a narrow margin reveals the importance of an alliance with the BSP.

The margin of loss in at least four constituencies was less than 1,000 votes – Nagthan (667), Malavalli (538), Sindgi (752), and Kumta (420).

In these seats, the BSP won enough votes to fill JD(S)’s margin – Nagathan (1,260), Malavalli (2,628), Kumta (977) and Sindgi (752).

Here is a comparison between the margin by which the JD(S) lost in some seats and total votes won by the BSP in those constituencies. This comparison shows that by joining hands with the BSP, the JD(S) can win several constituencies.

Source: Election Commissioner of India

In some seats like T Narasipura, which is a seat reserved for SC candidate, the JD(S) lost by 323 votes. Although the BSP didn’t contest the seat, a few hundred Dalit votes would have made the JD(S) a victor.

Despite these calculations, the Congress and the BJP share between them the large chunk of the Dalit votes in the state. The question remains – how much can JD(S) eat into the Dalit vote bank and from whom?