With Karnataka Elections in next few days, we present to our readers, a series tailored specifically for people who are interested in all the required information regarding this election. Mahesh Gajabar writes for you explaining why Karnataka is different and how their politics works since the early days. Readers are advised to draw their own conclusions from Author’s views. Here comes the third part of ‘Unfolding Karnataka’ Series, stating current political standing. You can follow the series here.
For after long time, there is no major anti-incumbency factor, rare in Karnataka. Siddu is banking on his populist schemes, Lingayat religion benefit and bring Kannada pride in forefront against Hindi imposition supporter BJP. These populist schemes include:
• Anna Bhagya (free supply of rice and dal to the BPL)
• Ksheera Bhagya (milk to schoolchildren)
• Shaaddi Bhagya (50k free financial assistance to women of minorities at the time of marriage)
• Krishi Bhagya (schemes for farmers)
• Vasati Bhagya (cheap homes for the poor)
• Arogya Bhagya (free healthcare)
• Anila Bhagya (gas)
• Shoe-Socks Bhagya (footwear for Class 1 to 10 students)
• Pashu Bhagya (subsidized cattle for farmers)
• Laptop Bhagya (free laptops for OBC & Dalits students)
• 198 Indira Canteens in Bengaluru and now new setups in nearly 75 taluka centers(5 Rupees Breakfast and 10 rupee meals)
• And don’t forget free dentures for senior citizens
Congress though has not formally announced CM candidate for this election, CM siddu is a front-runner among all. Other Congress men eying this post include
- Mallikarjun Khrage (10 time MLA & 2 time MP)
- KPCC President G Parameshwar who lost assembly election last time and race for CM post. (Both will be lobbying under Dalit CM quota.)
- Power minister DK Shivakumar who is trying to emerge as strong vakkaliga leader (2nd most largest caste of Karnataka, has presence dominant in South Karnataka and Bengaluru).
- MB Patil, Water Resources minister who successfully lead the Lingayat movement.
BJP had taken back both Yediyurappa and Sri ramulu in their party, before Lokasabha elections of 2014. Both are sitting MP’s Now. 2 Years earlier, BJP Declared Yediyurappa as CM Candidate and made him state BJP chief. in 2004 and 2009 under his leadership, without any modi wave, they had won 18 and 19 MP seats respectively, out of 28. In 2014, inspite of Modi wave they won 17 MP seats which was less than previous 2 terms. After 2008, Yediyurappa termed as Lingayat leader, holds a strong mass base among others as well. Unlike other BJP leaders, he doesn’t a have hard core Hindutva background. In 2008, he promised Muslims that he will give 1 cabinet seat in his ministry and he did it. In 2013, his KJP fielded more than 10 Muslim candidates.
JDS has also already declared its CM candidate i.e Ex CM Kumarswamy, younger son of HD Devegowda. Both BJP & Congress had a huge aspirants list of candidates, nearly dozen in each party & each constituency. After announcing tickets there were bundh calls, protests, tyre burn, effigy burn by supporters of candidates who were denied tickets. JDS on other side has strong presence only in Old Mysuru region & some parts of Middle Karnataka. JDS announced candidates list for 126 seats 1.5 months prior to EC’s election announcement. JDS tied up with BSP, giving them 20 seats. For rest of the regions, they didnt have any strong candidates and waited till last moment for importing candidates from other parties. In nearly 90 seats, they are fielding such last minute imported strong candidates. Last election, 9 seats were won by last minuters & this time hoping for even more.
Lingayats form 18% of total population and are key factor in more than 110 seats. They are spread throughout the Karnataka, except coastal region. In northern Karnataka 75 seats and 35 seats in Southern Karnataka, they hold a vote share of 25% to 45%. There are over 1800 Lingayat mathas & 3000 swamijis. Some have been since last 7-8 centuries. Lingayat mathas are known for free education & free food for all, including all castes & creeds. Hence Lingayat mathas do not only influence Lingayats but also other castes as well, including Dalits & Muslims. I will mention some the big mathas when it comes to region specific explanation.
Separate Lingayat religion demand has been there for last 7 decades, but it didn’t have a strong support and backup. During last year of his tenure, Siddaramayya deployed two cabinet ministers to lead the movements and rallies, asked all Lingayat MLA’s to back it, constituted a committee for studying issue. Upon asking for time of 6 months, Committee was provided a little over month. Committee recommended for separate religion. Since BJP is united and Yediyurappa is CM face congress may not get big Lingayat support, which it got last time and BJP may gain big owing to that loss. It was alleged that to stop that loss Congress planned to push forward the separate religion demand and gain out of it.
Political analysts believe that Siddaramayya has taken a big risk by doing this. Northern part of Karnataka has seen huge support in movements, but southern part has been quiet. BJP on Other hand tried to advertize it as move to divide hindus and opposed it. How this separate Lingayat religion will play a game is very interesting to watch out.
Impact of this is such that Congress and BJP including PM Modi are bringing up name of Basavanna (founder of Lingayatism) whenever possible.
Siddus Kannada asmita has also changed lot of things. All BJP men who kept mum on Hindi Imposition issue are now tweeting in Kannada and quoting Basavanna and otherLingayat Sharanas vachnas in them. This includes Amit Shah, State incharge Prakash Javadekar, Muralidhar rao and some times PM Modi.
– To be Continued –
(Mahesh Gajabar contributed to this article in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Netive.in.)