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Karnataka elections: How did the Lingayat number fall from 17 to 9 per cent

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The Lingayat issue in Karnataka ahead of the assembly elections has been put on the back burner. The seven-member committee constituted to look into the demands made by the Lingayats sought six months time to submit its report. The government had set a deadline of four weeks, but the committee headed by retired High Court judge, Justice Nagmohan Das said it would not be possible to submit its report in such a short span of time.

Karnataka elections: How did the Lingayat number fall from 17 to 9 per cent

The issue, in a nutshell, deals with the separate Lingayat tag for Lingayats. Traditionally and culturally the Lingayats have always identified themselves as an offshoot of Shaivism. Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah decided to use this to his advantage and supported the demand. He hoped to eat into the vote share of the BJP which has backed heavily on the Lingayat votes.

The Lingayats constituted 17 per cent of the population in Karnataka. However leaked data from the caste census shows that the Lingayats are 59 lakh in number and now constitute 9 per cent of the population of Karnataka. What brought about this sudden dip in number?

During the caste census, the community members were told to opt for 'other' in the column for religion. Moreover, most of them were asked for their parent caste and this one of the reasons why the numbers dropped following the caste census, the data which has not been made public.

Karnataka elections: BJP 76, Cong 81, JD (S) 66, this mystery poll has everyone fuming

The open support declared by Siddaramaiah did drive a wedge among many of the very power Lingayat mutts in Karnataka. Moreover, the Congress had in 2013 bagged 15 per cent of the Lingayat votes and in 2018 is looking to add another 5 per cent to that vote share.

The BJP has remained tight-lipped over the issue. It would not want to antagonise its vote bank. The BJP, on the other hand, would tackle this issue differently. It has already started cosying up to the Vokkaliga mutts. The Vokkaligas as per the leaked caste census data comprise 8.16 of the population.

However, the bigger plank for the BJP would be Hindutva. This is a card which is capable of demolishing the caste factors in Karnataka. Although Karnataka has traditionally voted on caste lines, the Hindutva experiment according to the BJP will work. Moreover, the BJP has taken the line that the move by the Congress to divide the people into caste lines is a huge conspiracy against Hindus.

When it comes to the increased vote share among the Lingayats that the Congress bagged in 2013, the BJP says it would not be the same this time. The BJP was a unit divided into three in 2013. More importantly, B S Yeddyurappa considered to be the tallest Lingayat leader in the state was not part of the BJP. He had floated the KJP in 2013 and had eaten considerably into the BJP's vote share. With the BJP united and the Hindutva card being played, the equations in 2018 could well be very different.

Leaked Caste Census data:

  • Lingayats 9.65%
  • Vokkaligas 8.01%
  • Kurubas 7.11%
  • Valmiki Nayakas 5.4%
  • Madigas 5.4%
  • Chalavadis 4.7%
  • Edigas 2.29%
  • Brahmins 2.1%
  • SCs (180 castes) 17.7%
  • Muslims 12.27%
  • STs (105 castes) 6.8%
Karnataka Assembly Election dates
Date of notification April 17
Last date to file nominations April 24
Last date to withdraw nominations April 27
Date of polling May 12
Date of counting May 15

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