Former minister B T Lalitha Naik, a seemingly lightweight candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), takes on two political bigwigs in the Lok Sabha election from the Gulbarga SC reserved constituency - Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress) and Revu Naik Belamagi (BJP).
She is not new to electoral politics. But Naik had gone into political oblivion as the fortunes of the Janata Parivar, to which she belonged, declined in the State.
A staunch anti-Congress and anti-BJP ideologue, she was clinging on to the JD(S). But parted ways with the party, when it joined hands with the ‘communal’ BJP for sharing power in 2006. Since then, the 69-year-old Banjara (Lambani) woman has remained in political wilderness.
Naik finds AAP the most suitable platform, for “being secular and avowedly anti-corruption, besides symbolising a new common man-friendly political culture.”
Kharge has never faced defeat in the 10 electoral battles in a row, while Belamagi, though illiterate, is a seasoned politician, having won the Assembly elections four times consecutively.
Naik began her career as a reporter for the epoch-making Kannada tabloid ‘Lankesh Patrike’ in the early 1980s. She had formal schooling only up to eighth standard, but her literary works are prescribed as textbooks for undergraduate and postgraduate courses by different universities in the State. That sets Naik apart from the ‘run-of-the-mill’ politicians.
Recognising her literary skills, the then Ramakrishna Hedge government of the Janata Party nominated her to the Legislative Council. She was later elected to the Assembly from the Devadurga (SC) constituency in Raichur district on a Janata Dal ticket and became a minister in the H D Deve Gowda government. She had only a one-year stint as minister, but it proved very tumultuous for her.
Her husband committed suicide weeks after she became minister and her son was involved in a controversy of pouring liquor on Dr B R Ambedkar’s statue.
She took the ‘Gorboli’ dialect - spoken by Lambanis - to the Assembly, when one day she suddenly started speaking in that dialect on the floor of the House.
Everyone was taken aback as it sounded like Greek and Latin for them. Naik then said she had to speak in her mother tongue to bring the plight and miseries of the Banjaras to the notice of the powers that be.
“AAP is the one party which has identified itself with the man on the street. Within months of its formation, AAP came to power in Delhi. Its fierce stand against corruption is most appealing,” Naik says.