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BJP and Congress' caste combinations in numbers for Karnataka assembly polls 2017

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If leaked statistics from the controversial caste census of Karnataka are anything to go by, the state's demographics have changed massively. With 1.43 crore in number, Dalits now constitute 24 per cent of the total electorate. This puts the number games in perspective. Here is how caste equations in Karnataka are expected to play out in the 2018 assembly elections.

BJP and Congress' caste combinations in numbers for Karnataka assembly polls 2017

While the government is dilly-dallying over tabling the findings of the caste census, the JD(S) and the BJP have begun strategising using the leaked numbers. The BJP has traditionally used the Lingayat+ Vokkaliga+ Brahmin combination for its elections. Lingayat votes ensured a thumping victory to the party in Karnataka. The scenario has now changed.

Caste in numbers

According to leaked statistics of the caste census, out of the 5.76 crore people, 1.43 crore are Dalits. Muslims are 65 lakhs in number. Vokkaliga and Lingayats constitute 8 and 10 per cent respectively while the OBC constitute 7.3 per cent. Close to 30 lakh people have not been considered under the census and data on the same remains inconclusive.

The Congress, especially Siddaramaiah, has been pushing AHINDA caste calculation. Minorities, backward classes and Dalits have been and continue to be Congress' primary vote banks. With the caste census, if the party is able to retain its voters, there is no doubt of a thumping majority. 1.43 crore Dalits, 65 lakh Muslims and OBC that make up for 7.3 per cent is a perfect combination for victory. The Congress, while consolidating its vote bank, is accused of systematically dislodging BJP's strength, Lingayats. The Vokkaligas, the JD(S)' traditional voters have always been divided between BJP and Congress as well.

BJP's new Dalit+Lingayat attempt

"The census was cleverly conducted to serve Siddaramaiah's purpose. His purpose was to drive home a message that dominant castes of Karnataka, Vokkaligas and Lingayats don't matter for politics in Karnataka, simply because he belongs to neither. It has worked in his favour. We now have different strategies," said a BJP leader who did not wish to be named.

The Congress' AHINDA target remains the same while BJP led by Lingayat strongman B S Yeddyurappa has adapted to a change of strategy. Instead of the Lingayat+ Vokkaliga+ Brahmin caste calculation, the party has decided to go after the largest chunk of voters in the state, Dalits. Now, the BJP wants to experiment that very difficult Lingayat+ Dalit + Brahmin caste calculation.

This explains the Dalit outreach from the BJP and personally B S Yeddyurappa's side. Brahmins make up for less than 2 per cent of the electorate and are traditional voters of the BJP. "We do not expect to get all Dalit votes but if we manage to get 17-18 per cent of Dalit votes, almost 2 per cent of Brahmin votes, 2 or 3 per cent of OBC votes and 10 per cent of Lingayat votes, we are through. We are looking at 31-32 per cent," said another BJP functionary strategising for the assembly elections. 2 or 3 per cent of the Vokkaliga votes have been calculated as a buffer.

2018 is all set to see new caste, community calculations in the state where caste plays a vital role in electoral politics. While OBC sub-committee wooing worked wonders for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the same is not expected to be impactful in Karnataka limiting the BJP.

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