What was supposed to be a master-stroke turned out to be doom for the Congress in Karnataka. The much hyped Lingayat issue failed to give the Congress any dividends and that was clear in the results that were declared on Tuesday. The Congress tally dropped from 121 to 78 and the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats.
The Lingayat issue did not just play up during the elections, but post the results too. Even as top Lingayat leaders in the Congress lost the polls, there is still a great amount of resentment among those who have won.
Take for instance Siddaramaiah's loss in Chamundeshwari. He over-emphasised on the issue and this was being seen as a way of dividing the community and the Hindus as a whole. In Chamundeshwari, where the Lingayats are a strong force, Siddaramaiah was defeated by 36,000 votes. He was defeated by G T Deve Gowda of the JD(S), a dominant Vokkaliga leader. Three key Lingayat leaders, Vinay Kulkarni, Sharan Prakash Patil and Basavaraj Rayaraddi also lost out to the BJP from Dharwad Rural, Sedam and Yelaburga respectively.
Sources say that there are several Lingayat MLAs who are unhappy with the decision taken by the Congress. While the manner in which the community voted is one major cause for the resentment, the other is with regard to the offer made to the JD(S). They feel that the Lingayat votes would further move away from the Congress in the wake of the party supporting H D Kumaraswamy's candidature who is a Vokkaliga. The likes of Anand Singh, Rajashekar Patil, Nagendra and M Y Patil are not entirely happy with the decision of a Congress-JD(S) government.
This would be a huge problem for the Congress in 2019 especially in Karnataka where the Lingayats constitute 17 per cent of the population. In the assembly polls, the Lingayats are a major player in at least 90 to 100 seats.
If one looks at the Congress numbers in these belts, it is clear that the party has suffered a great deal. The first signs of a disaster was when Vinay Kulkarni, who spearheaded the movement lost the elections.
In the Mumbai Karnataka region, the Congress's tally dropped from 31 seats in 2013 to 17 this year. This was quickly pointed out by senior Congress leader, Veerappa Moily who said that the party got the caste equations wrong.
One may have noticed that the Congress tried to downplay the issue in the last leg of the polls. The leaders were mum about it. The Congress realised that it had played with an emotive issue. The Lingayats felt that this was nothing but an attempt to divide the Hindu community.
What the disgruntled Lingayat MLAs in the Congress feel is that this issue would play out in 2019 as well. There are a few who are in discussions over the next course of action. They feel that the Congress-JD(S) combine would further alienate the Lingayats. It would be viewed as a move to keep Yeddyurappa, the tallest Lingayat leader in the state away.