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 fifth part of ‘Unfolding Karnataka’ Series, now putting facts and numbers together, region wise. You can follow the series here.
Bengaluru city has 28 MLA’s. Core city has 3 MP seats(24MLA’s) and the rest 4 Assemblies are shared by 2 parliamentary seats. All 3 city MP seats are held by BJP with two powerful union ministers namely Ananta Kumar (6 time MP) and Sadananda Gowda(Ex CM also). Rest two MP seats are held by Congress(ex CM and ex-Union law minister Veerappa Moily & DK Suresh brother of powerful Vakkaliga leader & power minister DK Shivakumar). In Bengaluru city, all parties give lion share of tickets to (12-15) to Gowda Vakkaliga’s & Reddy Vakkaliga’s since they are the natives of the city and from the southern part of Karnataka, many Vakkaliga’s settled over there. Then next priority to Brahmans(2-4) and Muslims (3-4).
Bengaluru city itself shares a border with Tamil Nadu. Andhra Pradesh border is at hardly 70km away hence there are many Tamilians and Telugites also found in big number after Kannadigas. Over the Cauvery water issue whenever there is any verdict goes against Karnataka then Bengaluru city sees an overheated reaction. This city is also language sensitive city with the domination of many pro-Kannada organizations.
In 1991 18 Tamilians killed in the violence and it is estimated that over 3 Lac Tamilians left the city. In 1994 protest against Urdu new bulletin on Kannada Doordarshan, 23 have died and crores of the property have been vandalized.
B S Yeddyurappa in 2009 tried to bring a harmony between Tamilnadu & Karnataka by initiating talks with Tamil Nadu Government. As per that Thiruvallar (1st Century Tamil poet) statue was installed in Bengaluru & Sarvagna (15th century Kannada poet) statue was installed in Chennai. It was purely aimed at gaining Tamil votes in Karnataka & Kannada votes in Tamil Nadu. Now Congress has made a Tamilian Scheduled caste person as a Bengaluru city mayor and also offered him assembly ticket from one of the reserved seat.
Though there are a big number of Vakkaliga voters (JDS core voter bank is Vakkaliga) but JDS has strong presence only in 3-4 seats. Both BJP & Congress are equally strong here. It is also alleged that there always a match-fixing between city BJP & Congress leaders. There are many MLA’s who have won 4-5-6 times easily. Now also it is very easy to guess that certainly there is a match-fixing kind of ticket distribution.
In 2008 BJP won 16 out of 28 and in 2013 in spite of anti-incumbency they won 12. Now both Congress & BJP are aiming at 15-18 seats. JDS had 3 MLA’s in 2013 but two of them defected to Congress. JDS has given the ticket to imported candidates in 5-6 seats.
Important candidates to look for is Ramalinga Reddy(Home Minister) in BTM Layout taking against Lallesh Reddy (Relative of Janardhan Reddy), KJ George in Sarvagna Nagar(Bengaluru Urban development minister), R AShok in Padmanabha Nagar(BJP, Ex DCM), Dinesh Gundurao in Gandhi Nagar(KPCC working president), Suresh Kumar in Rajaji Nagar(BJP, Ex Law minister & Humble politician), M Krishnappa in Vijay Nagar(Housing Minister), 2 time Congress MLA NA Harris in Shanti Nagar(Whose son is now in Jail after attacking brutally business man son, He got ticket in last moment).
Biggest curiosity seat to look for is Govindaraj Nagar. Senior politician & congress man V.Sommana has a hold on Bengaluru south part since from 1989. He is the lone Lingayat leader in the city. He won 5 times. In 2008 he was made to resign to his MLA post and by operation Lotus he was bought to BJP. In By-lection he contested against Priya Krishna son of M Krishnappa(Both son & father are there in India’s richest MLA’s list of top 5). Somanna lost against him. In 2013 he lost against M Krishnappa in Vijaynagar. But he made 15 BJP corporatos to win out of 17 which comes under both Govinda Raj Nagar & Vijay Nagar. Somanna had a fear of losing once again since he cannot beat Krishnappa and Priya Krishna in terms of money expenditure so he started looking for other seat in home town district Chamaraja Nagar. But BSY who was angry on Somanna for not joining him in KJP was not in a mood to give ticket anywhere. After Union minister Anant Kumar(Both Vijaynagar & Govindaraj Nagar are in his MP seat) intervention Somanna got a ticket. Both Vakkaliga’s & Lingayats are equally strong here. Priya Krishna belongs to Vakkaliga caste. So it will be interesting to see who will win this time.
2 time BJP MLA of Jayanagar & one of the most humble politician Vijay Kumar died on May 3rd due to cardiac arrest. Hence there is a postponement of election for that constituency. Sowmya Reddy (daughter of Home minister Ramalinga Reddy) is contesting from Congress here.
This is called old Mysuru region because the erstwhile state was Mysore before states re-organization in 1956. Then few vakkaliga leaders were in oppose of merging Kannada speaking areas into one state since they have fear that after merging south + north Lingayat’s combined strength will outnumber Vakkaligas and take over hold on state politics. But then chief minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah and Rashtra Kavi KuVeMpu in spite of both of being Vakkaligas strongly stood by demand of Samyukta Karnataka (United Karnataka). Immediately following year of United Karnataka formation, Vakkaligas (14% of state population) lost the hold on CM post and it went to veteran Congress man S Nijalingappa(Lingayat). After long time in 1994 vakkaligas got it back again (HD Devegowda). Till 1971 united state name was with the name “Mysore state” only but due to constant pressure from literature field (irrespective of north south) and some north Karnataka leaders it was renamed as Karnataka. This is heart land of vakkaligas and they have dominance here except some parts of Mysuru district, some parts of Tumakuru district and entire Chamaraja Nagar district. Adi chunchanagiri is the biggest matha of vakkaligas which is also in social service like Lingayat mathas. There are few other 100’s of small mathas of vakkaligas. Siddaganga matha of Tumukuru city and Sutturu Matha in Mysuru district are the biggest mathas of Lingayat’s.
Siddaganga matha has been providing free education and free stay to over 20000 students from all over India irrespective of caste & creed (Many are from northeast also). This matha is headed by 113-year-old Sri Sri Shivakumar Swamiji known as walking god of Karnataka adorned by all of Karnataka. There is a long pending demand of conferring Bharat Ratna award to him. Any politician from central or President of India visiting Karnataka rarely misses a chance to visit Siddaganga matha. Amit sha, Rahul Gandhi and PM Modi already did their rounds. Sutturu matha has also over 12000 students. Interestingly these mathas kept neutral opinion on separate religion status for Lingayat’s. There are many other 100’s of Lingayat mathas . Some of them supported and some kept neutral opinion.
This region has got total 8 MP seats and 61 assembly seats. There are 5 Congress MP’s, 2 JDS MP’s and 1 BJP MP. Barring 15-18 seats there is no strong presence of BJP at all fully in this region. Hence fight is between Congress & JDS in most of the seats.
Hassan district is the home district of veteran, most clever politician, former prime minister and Vakkaliga leader Sri HD Devegowda. His elder son HD Revanna looks after party here. They have a very strong hold in district even in Lingayat dominated seats as well (3 seats have Lingayat dominance. After 2008 Lingayat’s are not traditional voters of JDS due to power transfer issue in 20-20 government). BJP once upon a time had 4 out of 7 seats in 1999 but they lost hold such a way that just 1 seat in 2004 and zero score in last 2 assembly elections. Now they are trying to get back glory but party base is not so strong. Congress on other hand won just 2 seats in last 2 assembly elections but have a strong presence in all 7 seats. JDS will continue to hold on this district and BJP may snatch max 1 seat from them.
Ramanagara district is on the way of Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. Famous for sericulture in India. Two most powerful men in current politics are contesting from this district. One is CM candidate of JDS HD Kumar Swamy and other is CM in waiting of Congress and power minister DK Shivakumar. Ramanagara has given 3 CM’s to state. First United Karnataka CM Kengal Hanumanthaiah was from Ramanagara. Though HD Devegowda is from Hassan district he won from Ramanagara when he was CM, 160km away from his hometown. Later his son Kumaraswamy taken over his legacy and continued his stronghold. This district has 35-40% Vakkaliga votes in all 4 seats. DK Shivakumar who is trying to emerge as a strong Vakkaliga leader has a rivalry with Gowda family and has limited influence outside his constituency. But he has excellent organizing skills and money power. He only took care of Gujarat Congress MLA’s in the resort during Rajya Sabha elections of 2017 where BJP planned to hijack them to defeat Ahmad Patel. During that time IT raid was conducted on him and he stood strong. Shivakumar had the close friendship with Vilasrao Deshmukh and taken care of Maharashtra Congress MLA’s in resort back in 2002 also. He is called King of Kanakapura. Kumaraswamy apart from Ramanagara also contesting from neighbor Channapattana seat. Sitting MLA and film star turned politician CP Yogeshwar contesting on BJP ticket there. He is winning that seat from 1999 on Congress ticket.
In 2008 by operation lotus he joined BJP. But in the by-election, he lost to JDS. In 2012 he hijacked JDS MLA & did one more operation lotus and won from there. Since he had hijacked his party MLA, Kumaraswamy is angrry with him. In 2013 Yogeshwar (Samajwadi Party) defeated Kumarswamy wife Anitha. It was anticipated that Anitha will contest again. But JDS has a common allegation of father, sons & their family party (More than 12 ticket aspirants were there in Gowda family & nearest families). To avoid that senior Gowda allowed only his two sons and denied tickets to two daughters-in-law and one grandson.
To take revenge on Yogeshwar, Kumaraswamy is contesting from 2 seats. Yogeshwar has a rivalry with Shivakumar also. It is alleged that both Shivakumar and Kumaraswamy (though both are family enemies) made an agreement to defeat their common enemy Yogeshwar. Sensing that CM Siddu made a master plan and given the ticket to his close aide Transport minister HM Revanna (MLC & Belongs to Kuruba caste same as Siddu, He agreed reluctantly to contest) and assigned that seat responsibility to Shivakumar. So, this is very interesting seat to look for. One of the sitting JDS MLA from this district defected to Congress. Apart from Yogeshwar’s seat, there is no BJP here.
Mandya a Cauvery river basin and only major sugar district of south Karnataka. This district has 60% of the Vakkaliga population. It is said that name of Devegowda works here rather than JDS party candidates. They have a stronghold here. Congress is also equally strong as well. BJP has no presence at all. BS Yeddyurappa is originally from this district (Born and bought up till 18 years) but moved to Shivamogga for work and settled there. He pleaded in vain emotionally that “give me at least one seat to my party so that son of this soil can become CM”.
Ex-CM and Ex-Union minister and veteran Vakkaliga congress leader 86-year-old SM Krishna (Maddur, Mandya district) joined BJP 1 year back. But he doesn’t hold any mass base here. He had requested 5 tickets, but BJP has given only 1 seat to his supporter. 2 JDS sitting MLA’s defected to Congress. Famous film actor and ex-Union minister Amabareesh upset over Siddu for dropping him from the cabinet in reshuffle decided to not to contest this time and also not to canvas for the party is a huge setback for Congress as he holds popularity in Mandya, Ramanagar, and neighbor Mysuru districts.
Congress National social media head, Former MP of Mandya and a popular south Indian film actress Ramya(Divya Spandana) also not seen canvassing for the party. In spite of agriculturally forward district, in last 5 years, there are many farmer suicides in this district due to soaring sugarcane price and the shortage of water. Due to drought in Cauvery basin from last few years, reservoir water is used mainly for Bengaluru drinking water supply denying water to agricultural purposes. Farmer leader & Sitting MLA Puttanaih died of cardiac arrest recently and his US returned son contesting on public demand on Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj India party ticket. Congress is backing him.
In Kolar & Bengaluru rural districts (Total 10 seats) BJP has hold on 4 seats and they are expecting to win them. Congress has a stronghold in both these districts and looking for retaining last time score of 4. JDS also has a strong base in 8 seats and looking for a big score since strong Vakkaliga vote bank. Kolar though dry land with no water facility very famous for Mangoes, Tomatoes and Milk production. There are 2 Interesting facts to look for in Kolar district.
- One of the independent MLA defected to congress and got a party ticket from reserved seat. High court has disqualified him on the grounds of fake caste certificate hence there is no congress candidate in Mulabagil constituency now. MLA also had filed nomination from another general seat as independent and contesting from there now challenging one more strong Independent sitting MLA(Varthur Prakash), JDS and Congress party candidates. So its Quadruple contest in Kolar seat now.
- BJP MLA Sampangi from KGF(Kolar gold flakes, SC reserved) caught by Lokayukta in 2010 while taking a 1Lac bribe and was sent to jail. In 2013 party denied him the ticket but given to his mother and she won. 2018 he got back ticket again which results in a lot of criticism in media on BJP, people started to call BJP as “Bail Jail Party”. Finally, party replaced him with his daughter Ashwini. She is contesting against Congress candidate Roopakala daughter of veteran Left Dalit leader, 7 time MP and ex-Union minister KH Muniyappa(Kolar sitting MP). 5 years back Ashwini defeated Roopakala in Zilla Panchayat elections.
In Chikkaballapura one more Vakkaliga dominated district fight is between Congress & JDS only. Though BJP lost parliamentary elections by just 10k votes against Ex-union minister and Ex CM Veerappa Moily they don’t have a strong base in assembly elections. HD Kumaraswamy contested parliamentary elections to take personally on BJP candidate BN Bachchegowda and stood at 3rd place making Bachchegowda lose. Congress and JDS may get last time numbers.
Coorg is the beautiful hill district with coffee plantations, famous tourism destination. Here Fight is between Congress and BJP only. From last 3 assembly elections BJP has retained both seats and expected to do better this time also.
Tumakuru district (11 seats) is equally dominated by Lingayat’s and Vakkaligas. Land of coconuts. Outside Karnataka, people call these area coconuts as Madras Coconuts. Last time due to KJP impact JDS gained a couple of seats here. But Now united BJP giving the tough fight in at least 7 seats. Hence there will be a triangular fight between all parties. Surveys expecting that 4 seats each to Congress and JDS and rest 3 to BJP. In Tumakuru city BJP has denied ticket to 4-time strong ex MLA Sogadu Shivanna who was in BS Yeddyurappa rival camp. They have given a ticket to BSY’s close Jyoti Ganesh who stood at 2nd position last time(KJP). KPCC Chief Parameshwara who lost last time and lost race of CM post is also from this district. His seat is currently held by JDS(Koratagere, SC-reserve). The biggest Solar power plant has been set up at Pavagada which on completion will be the world’s biggest solar park. It is one of best achievements of power minister DK Shivakumar and Siddu Government.
Tumakuru, Chikkaballapura, and Kolar are dry lands with no major water resources. There is a proposal of bringing water from Western ghats by turning one of the streams of Netrvati near Ettina Hole and fulfill water needs of these districts but there is a huge oppose from Coastal Karnataka districts as they are saying there will an ecological imbalance and Netrvathi is the life line of coastal Karnataka. PM Modi in his Tumakuru speech said if BJP comes to power will implement Netravati and Hemavathi river joining and will make these districts drought free.
Chamaraja Nagara(4 seats) is the end of Karnataka and has beautiful Bandipura National Park which shares the border with Wayanad, Kerala and Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu. Till 2004 notorious Veerappan fear was there in the district. This district has Lingayat’s, SC’s and ST’s almost in equal number. Unlike other south Karnataka districts, Vakkaligas have little influence here. Last time due to KJP impact BJP had set back in 2 seats. Now united BJP is strong in 3 seats. JDS has given up 3 seats to BSP. BSP is strong in Kollegala where its state president N Mahesh is contesting. He lost by whisker margin last time. Siddu’s Close friend, 5 times MLA and strong Lingayat leader of this region Mahadev Prasad died of cardiac arrest last year. By-election was won by his Wife and got a minister post. But now she has to face tough competition from BJP.
Mysuru is the cultural iconic district of Karnataka. Well known city for its world famous Dasara celebrations. Politically one of the most important districts in Karnataka. It has given two chief ministers to Karnataka. Late Devaraj Urs (Spelt as Aras) who ruled Karnataka from 1972 to 1980 (Barring few months gap due to president rule. Imposed because of emergency in India). He is called the champion of backward classes because he changed many dimensions by implementing Land tenancy act, reservation to backward classes and political representation to OBC’s. He belongs to a minor community called Kshatriya caste. After him, only Siddaramaih has completed full 5 years term as CM who coincidentally happens to be from the same district and belongs to a non-Lingayat and Non-Vakkaliga community.
There are 11 seats in total in this district out of which 9 Vakkaliga Dominated seats and 2 Lingayat dominated seats. Siddu’s Kuruba caste, Schedule Tribe Valmikis, and scheduled castes are also in big number. Eying on ST votes BJP has planned to field Ballari MP Sri Ramulu from one of the ST reserved seats from here as his second-choice seat. But in changed scenarios, he is facing CM Siddu in Badami as a second choice seat. CM Siddu son Rakesh was taking care of his father constituency.
After much insist from CM close circle he started taking the interest one year back. Siddaramaih has won from undivided Chamundeshwari in 1983,1985, 1994 (DCM), 2004(DCM). After removal from DCM post, he joined Congress and faced a by-election in 2006. He won by whisker margin of just 257 votes against JDS candidate. In 2008 after delimitation he shifted to newly created Varuna since his origin village came under Varuna constituency. Undivided Chamundeshwari had dominance of Lingayats but irrespective of caste equations he used to win. His loss in 1989 and 1999 was to Lingayat candidates only.
Chamundehswari now is Vakkaliga dominated. His one time friend GT Devegowda (not HD Devegowda) of JDS represents that seat. During his 5 years tenure as CM siddu had an allegation of neglecting Gowdas(G), Lingayats(Li) and Brahman(B) officers and their related files. Ex-CM Jagadish Shettar alleged in the assembly that Siddu has given a code word JiLibi(a sweet dish) for GLB related files. It is said that Siddus’s personal attack on Devegowda irked Vakkaligas and separate religion status has angered Lingayat’s of South Karnataka. There are 70k Vakkaliga voters, 35k Lingayat voters and 5k Brahman voters in Chamundeshwari which makes up nearly 50% of total voters. Also, Dalit voters are more in number(35k) apart from his Kuruba caste(45k). As per Media reports, State intelligence warned him of a risk of contesting from there. So he decided to choose one more safe seat i.e Badami in North Karnataka.
Though he decided to choose Badami, he has faced 2 main opposition. One from Mallikarjun Kharge and KPCC chief Dr. G Parameshwar. They were of the opinion that CM choosing the second seat will send a wrong message. another opposition was from sitting MLA BB Chimmanakatti. He also belongs to Kuruba caste but senior to Siddu. He was not ready to give up his seat. In Delhi, during ticket distribution discussions Siddu agreed to contest from only one seat but got Badami ticket for his aide Devaraj Patil. After coming to Bengaluru he instructed KPCC to withheld Devaraj Patil B-form. He toured 5 days in chamundeshwari and observed situations. Meanwhile, to media he kept on telling that he is contesting only from one seat. Two days before the end of nomination he declared that he is contesting from Badami also but cited reason of due to pressure from North Karnataka leaders he is choosing one more seat. BJP which did not declare candidate for Badami finally chosen Ballari MP Sriramulu.
In Chamundeshwashri he has to face a tough challenge because Kumaraswamy and HD Devegowda have taken it very seriously to defeat their one time close friend later turned political enemy CM Siddu. JDS Candidate GT Devegowda is also a veteran politician and has a very strong hold. There is an allegation of match-fixing between BJP and JDS to defeat CM. BJP is fielding such a very strong candidate that he contested only once Gram Panchayat election and that also he lost. In spite of all odd caste calculations, CM has won 5 times in Chamundeshwari and 2 times in Varuna. This time also he is hoping for that. But certain things are changed. He had Mahadev Prasad (5 times MLA, Gundlupete, Chamaraja nagara district) who used to bring Lingayat votes but he died last year and Senior most veteran Dalit leader and ex-Union minister V Srinivas Prasad(4 times MP & 4 times MLA) who was upset on Siddu being dropped him from ministry in cabinet reshuffle has left Congress and joined BJP. Another veteran Kuruba leader H Vishwanath who brought Siddu to congress upset over him and has joined JDS. These things made CM fight himself alone.
In Lingayat and SC dominated Varuna, CM son Yatheendra is contesting, In 2013 both BJP & JDS could not find any strong candidates. They even could not secure deposited money also. KJP candidate Siddalingaswamy(Lingayat) who is a personal assistant of Yeddyurappa gave a very tough fight to Siddu and secured 55000 votes. After defeat, he built BJP such a way that out of 7 ZP seats BJP won 3 and Congress 4. They won CM’s home village Zilla panchayat. Out of 27 taluka panchayat, they won 12 and Congress won 14. This time for making high profile contest it was anticipated that Yeddyurappa younger son Vijayendra will contest. He was touring constituency for more than 20 days. It was unofficial that he will contest. But suddenly just half an before nomination filing BJP high command denied him a ticket. To take on family politics of Congress, BJP has chosen to deny ticket and give it to any other ordinary cadre man. But did it very late and within there was a huge opposition. BSY was upset over this and didn’t campaign for the party in the state for a couple of days. It was also alleged that RSS and Union minister played a game to put control on BSY who has got more than 120 tickets for his supporters. Now, this is a low profile contest and Congress expected to win.
Another interesting seat to look for in Mysuru district is Narasimharaj constituency. It is currently represented by education minister Tanveer. Pro Muslim party SDPI stood 2nd last time and lost by whisker margin. They are trying to heavily mobilize Muslim votes. On Another hand BJP also trying to mobilize Hindu votes on grounds of making an issue of one of its Hindu boy killing. Amit Shah visited here and concentrating on this seat. There will be a triangular fight. In Mysuru district as per surveys out of 11 JDS expected to win 5-7, Congress 3-4 and BJP 2-3.
This will be the end of my Unfolding Karnataka Series, I will be back with Election Analysis once the results are out in the open. Hope you have enjoyed all the 8 articles. Kindly let me know your feedback.
(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.)