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Why over-emphasising of Lingayat issue could lead to a hung assembly in Karnataka

By Vicky Nanjappa
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    The Karnataka Assembly Elections are round the corner and there is no conversation that ends without a question of the religious minority status for Lingayats being asked.

    Why over-emphasising of Lingayat issue could lead to a hung assembly in Karnataka

    After the state government decided to recommend the status for the very powerful Lingayat community, it did drive doubts into the heads of many people about the impact it would have on the vote bank of the BJP.

    The Lingayats have traditionally voted for the BJP and this move by the Congress has driven some amount of confusion into the minds of the BJP leaders. The question is how much of an impact would it have on the BJP's vote bank. Many analysts arrive at a figure of 1 to 2 per cent in favour of the Congress.

    The other question that would need to be asked in this context is whether the over-emphasising on the Lingayat issue will have a negative impact on the Vokkaliga votes which is another powerful community in Karnataka.

    Some would argue that with so much emphasis being given to the Lingayats, there is a good chance that there would be a back-lash from the Vokkaligas. This has been a traditional vote bank of the JD(S) and Congress. The JD(S) has already picked up the Lingayat issue and is portraying Siddaramaiah as anti-Vokkaliga. The Vokkaligas are a dominant community and their votes do shape the outcome of any election.

    If the Vokkaligas who are loyal to the Congress change track and go with the JD(S) then the state is looking at a hung house. In this context, I would see a BJP-JD(S) government in Karnataka, a source following the developments closely said.

    The anti-Vokkaliga campaign launched by the JD(S) against Siddaramaiah is now being debunked by the Congress. M Siddegowda who quit the JD(S) to join the Congress said that the Vokkaligas do not indulge in caste politics and will back Siddaramaiah.

    Leading psephologist, Dr. Sandeep Shastri says that traditionally the Vokkaligas vote has seen a three way split and a large chunk of its has gone to the JD(S). At one level, the emphasis by the Congress on the Lingayat factor could have an impact for it in terms of Vokkaliga votes.

    Dr Shastri however says that the Congress focus is on the OBC, Dalit and minority votes. On the other hand the BJP has been very clever in not over-emphasising on the Lingayat issue. They have stuck to the point that the Congress is dividing Hindus.

    If you look at the BJP's presence and expansion in the old Mysore region, then an important focus of the party has been on the Vokkaliga votes. It would not be right to say that the BJP has not taken cognisance of the Vokkaliga votes.

    The JD(S) on the other hand depends on the Vokkaliga votes. In 2013, they put up a reasonably good show thanks to their performance in the old Mysuru region barring Bangalore urban and rural. In this region, a majority of the seats went to the JD(S) and the Congress failed to bag many.

    The BJP is making a conscious effort to make inroads further into the old Mysuru region. With this spreading, it is early to say how much of an impact will the Lingayat vote have on the Vokkaligas especially in the old Mysore region, Dr Shastri also points out.

    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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