The caste equations in the Karnataka assembly elections 2018 would be crucial. While during every election, it is the Vokkaliga and Lingayat vote banks that are spoken about. However, this time around there is a difference.
The leaked reports of the caste census that was conducted in Karnataka shows that the Lingayats are at 9.8 per cent. This could be quite a concern for those parties relying on these votes as the Lingayats are down from 17 per cent which used to be the top slot.
The Vokkaligas on the other hand who was at 12 per cent are down to 8.16 per cent as per the leaked reports of the caste census. The Dalits, on the other hand, are at the top now with 18 per cent.
The question is will the Dalits vote in favour of the Congress? Through his Ahinda politics, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has made all the right noises and doled out sops for the backward classes and Dalits. He has even gone ahead and promised a scaling up of the reservation from 50 to 70 per cent.
However, these moves by Siddaramaiah may not be an assurance that he will bag the votes from the BCs and Dalits. While a large number of them are likely to back the Congress, the fact is that Siddaramaiah may not be able to live upon his reservation promise.
The reservation issue could prove to be a two-edged sword for Siddaramaiah. First and foremost, it would need a constitutional amendment and none see that happening in the next four months. Secondly, Siddaramaiah has raked up other issues such as a separate identity for the Lingayats. Any further move on the issue of reservation could anger the forward communities.
The Karnataka government has also deliberately kept the caste census under wraps. Releasing the census could earn the wrath of the Vokkaligas and Lingayats who have accused the government of deliberately reducing their numbers.
The Congress would, however, continue to woo the BCs, Dalits and minorities. A large part of the Lingayat and Vokkaliga vote banks are divided between the BJP and JD(S) respectively. However, for the BJP one needs to see if the Lingayats vote them to power like they did in 2007.
During the 2013 elections, the Congress bagged 15 per cent of the Lingayat vote share. The Congress may hope to better its tally this time and would rely on the division there is among the community owing to the issue of separate identity.
However, the year 2018 may not be similar to 2013 for the Congress where the Lingayat vote bank is concerned. In 2013 the BJP was a divided house and Yeddyurappa considered to be the tallest Lingayat leader in the state was not part of the party. He had broken away from the BJP to form the KJP. It would be interesting to see how the Lingayats vote this time around. Will they increase their vote share in favour of the Congress or back the BJP completely? The next month would be crucial.