AHINDA takes a backseat, Karnataka Congress all out to appease Lingayats, Vokkaligas

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Fresh from bypoll victory the Karnataka Congress is preparing for assembly elections scheduled to take place in less than a year. With Chief Minister Siddaramaiah confirming that he would lead the election campaign, the Congress' usual agenda of AHINDA is taken care of. With BJP managing to increase its vote share in traditional bastions of the Congress, the ruling party is devising methods to split BJP's votes.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah

Despite being led by Siddaramaiah, who takes pride in calling himself a socialist, rationalist leader fighting for the cause of social justice, the Congress is getting down to caste appeasement. The first attempt to woo the Lingayat and Vokkaliga voters is being made with respect to the post of KPCC president. During his visit to Bengaluru on Tuesday, Karnataka in-charge general secretary Digvijaya Singh said that the party sees no need to replace Dr Parameshwar. The clamour for a change in leadership is, however, growing in the party.

Congress hopes to appease Lingayat voters

The Congress, that is confident of its AHINDA votes, is now trying the beat B S Yeddyurappa's image as the only Lingayat mass leader in the state.
A Lingayat strongman, S R Patil's appointment as the KPCC's chief will, the Congress hopes, lure Lingayat votes. With D K Shivakumar, the Congress hopes to appease the Vokkaliga voters. With senior leaders of the party in Karnataka keen on having a president from the Lingayat community, water resource minister M B Patil's name is also doing the rounds. M B Patil proved his worth beyond doubt during the Gundlupet and Nanjangud bypolls. His Lingayat appeal reduced B S Yeddyurappa's caste appeal to a non-entity.

KPCC president post for a Lingayat strongman is just one avenue for appeasement. The Congress is also taking the 'mutt' route. In a bid to convey to the Lingayat voters that Congress will cater to their demands, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah during campaigns for the bypoll said that the state had sought Bharath Ratna to be conferred on seer of Siddaganga mutt, Shivakumara Swamiji. While this is not the first time that Siddaramaiah or Dr Parameshwar sought for the seer to be bestowed with the honour, the push being given by the Congress this time around has not gone unnoticed.

The fight for Vokkaliga votes

The fight for Vokkaliga votes has always been a three-cornered contest in Karnataka. The JD(S) led by Deve Gowda has a predominantly Vokkaliga vote bank in central Karnataka. The Congress and the BJP fight for the votes that do not favour the JD(S). With infighting in the JD(S) plaguing its performance in the assembly polls, both the BJP and the Congress are looking to woo the Vokkaliga votes.

For the BJP with Vokkaliga leaders holding plump posts and leading campaigns from the front, wooing the voters has become a regular affair. With senior Vokkaliga leaders like S M Krishna on their side, the party hopes to gather more support. It may be recalled that during the previous elections in Karnataka, the Adichunchanagiri Mutt had extended support to the BJP.

The Congress has now started projecting D K Shivakumar as its flagbearer of Vokkaliga community. Maintaining that S M Krishna's exit has no implications, the party is steadying to put up a fight for the Vokkaliga vote bank. While all parties claim to fight election on the agenda of development, the dominant shadow of caste appeasement politics refuses to die down.

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