The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), that opted out of the Congress–JD(S) coalition a few months ago, has decided to contest all the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, despite their vote share being less than 1% in the State in the past two Assembly polls. While the party is optimistic of some “chance” in two seats — Chickballapur and Chamarajanagar — its larger strategy is to fight to retain its “national party” tag that is under threat.
A party has to satisfy three conditions to win the national party tag: a national vote share of not less than 6% of the total votes, win at least 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha, and recognition as a State party in at least three States.
The BSP gained the national party tag in 2009 with a national vote share of 6.17% and 21 seats, but garnered only 4.19% and failed to win even one seat in 2014. However, the Election Commission of India (ECI) amended the rules in 2016 retrospectively to consider performance over two consecutive elections and not one to determine the party’s status. This only means the BSP is under pressure to win at least 11 seats and get 6% vote share in the upcoming polls or lose its national party tag. The BSP’s proposal to contest all the constituencies in the State received a stamp of approval from party supremo Mayawati at a meeting held in Lucknow on Tuesday. Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Lucknow, BSP leader and former Minister N. Mahesh said the BSP would announce its candidates in a week.
Ms. Mayawati would be addressing a poll rally in Mysuru on April 10, he added.
Among the prominent names, the former backward classes commission chairman C.S. Dwarkanath has joined the BSP and will contest from Chickballapur, and the party has offered Chamarajanagar seat to the former Chief Secretary K. Ratna Prabha.
But won’t they end up splitting secular votes? “Every time we want to contest, the Congress raises this bogey, but it won’t accommodate us in an alliance either. I have written to the KPCC president seeking the Congress support for my candidature in Chickballapur, but have received no response,” said Mr. Dwarkanath.
Ratna Prabha still undecided
Retired bureaucrat and former Chief Secretary K. Ratna Prabha is being wooed by several political parties in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, but she told The Hindu that she was still undecided and that jumping into the electoral fray was a tough call to take. “There have been intense speculation and offers from multiple parties ever since my retirement. I am carefully weighing the pros and cons of such a foray into politics,” she said.
Sources said she was being offered ticket not just in Karnataka but also in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh from where she hails. Ms. Ratna Prabha, a Dalit, has been approached by both the BJP and the BSP with offers to contest from Kalaburagi or Kolar and Chamarajanagar, respectively, sources said. Both the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress have also approached her. Mr. Ratna Prabha is clear that her area of work would be Karnataka, but will it be in politics or not is a call she is yet to take.