Upcoming Karnataka Elections and Dalits


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Karnataka is an interesting state in terms of political shifts. It also sees many politicians crossing party lines frequently. The present CM of Karnataka is one such example. And recently an ex-CM of Karnataka from Congress, S.M.Krishna, joined the BJP. The current chief Minister, Siddharamaiyya, was credited with the success of the Congress in the elections for his strategy of AHINDA which is a Kannada acronym for Minorities, backward classes, and Dalits. Logically, the long-term Congressman who is now the head of the opposition party in Lok Sabha, Mr. Kharge, was to become the CM of Karnataka. But Mr. Kharge was denied CMship as he came from the Dalit background. He is a Congress loyalist and has been serving the Congress party for many decades. He is also a Buddhist and an Ambedkarite, who set up a big Buddhist establishment in Gulbarga. His son is a minister in Sid’s Government. Also, the head of PCC of Karnataka is a Dalit who is included in the Ministry. Next Karnataka elections will take place in 2018.

Karnataka has been always leading the Dalit movement and Buddhism has been ascending in Karnataka. It is an interesting place where the Ambedkarites have launched the famous Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS) which was perhaps the most organized efforts to fight atrocities and mobilize the communities compared to other parts of India.

DSS had branches all over Karnataka and it was an organized entity. It splintered but long after consolidating Dalit movement in Karnataka. Now there are many DSS, but the DSS movement played its important role in Karnataka. Buddhism was the fastest growing religion in Karnataka and many Dalits embraced Buddhism. The BAMCEF/BSP movement was so strong that it led to the defeat of the established Congress and the BJP came to power.

The BSP as a political movement made inroads into Karnataka. It still has a potential to revive, but it seems that there is no or little efforts from the party headquarters of the BSP to revive it in Karnataka. In this political scene, the options left to the Dalits in Karnataka are a few and limited. Ideally, the Dalits in Karnataka must take the line of DSS and logically follow the example of the BSP to have an independent political force so that the power dynamics in Karnataka can be changed in favor of Dalits.

The Congress is all out to co-opt the Dalits as the Dalits votes are very important, but the Congress though denied Chief Ministership to a Dalit compensated him with the leadership in Lok Sabha and a significant number of Dalits were inducted in the Government. The Congress will have the challenge to retain Dalits in its fold and also get the support of two powerful dominant castes: Lingayats and Vokkalingas.

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A numerical analysis will clear this hazy picture of whose influence is deciding, but the BJP is already out to poach upon the leaders from other political parties and also form the alliances of backward classes and the Dalits. The BJP will playout the exact strategy of the BSP but with a twist that the leadership will always be with the BJP/RSS.

The Dalits in Karnataka are active and they have been able to mobilise Dalits from both the South and North Karnataka, but in the absence of a strong unifying force for these mobilised efforts, they will have to rely on others and that other can also mean the BJP and this dependence on others will be a doom for the organised social efforts in Karnataka. Upcoming Karnataka elections is a time for Dalit-Bahujans to show their strength and have their presence felt in the political arena.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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