Karnataka State Elections are going to take place in less than a month from today. The result of the elections to be held in May will influence Lok Sabha elections of 2019 as well. Karnataka is the gateway for the Bharatiya Janata Party to enter southern India and the Lingayat community seems to be the gateway into Karnataka. It is the first place where BJP was able to win an election and form a government in the South back in 2007. Karnataka is a very diverse state where seven languages are spoken: apart from Kannada, there are speakers of Tamil, Tulu, Telugu, Marathi, Konkani and Hindi in the state. This means there is a presence of seven communities in the state, a nightmare for any election strategy maker ahead of the polls. The largest community in Karnataka is the Lingayat which are seventeen percent or almost one-fifth of the total population in the state. With a strong presence in North and Central Karnataka, the Lingayat community is influential in 186 of the total 224 seats in Karnataka. And a recent survey suggests that the Lingayats are in no mood to turn away from the BJP.
Lingayats have always supported BJP and this was a cause of concern for the Congress. Ex-Chief Minister and the face of BJP in Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa himself comes from the Lingayat community. Yeddyurappa enjoys huge support all across the state and his community has always backed and shown their support for the former Chief Minister. Yeddyurappa has proved his loyalty towards his community time and again and as a result he has been elected to the State Assembly six times up till now. Siddaramaiah, the incumbent Congress Chief Minister in Karnataka had tried to play the ‘separate religion’ card for wooing the Lingayat voters. Initially presented as a masterstroke, the plan now seems to have backfired for the Congress. According to the survey conducted by Times Now-VMR, the vote swing towards BJP has increased by almost twelve percent in the areas dominated by the Lingayats. Even though the majority of Lingayats from the survey base were aware of the ‘separate religion status’ promise, they still decided to chose BJP over Congress. The Times Now survey shows that Congress could win 21 out of the 50 seats from the Lingayat dominated Mahrasthra-Karnataka region. This is 10 seats less than the 31 seats which the Congress had won in 2013 from the same region. The BJP might go on to win 23 seats, a great improvement from the 13 seats it had won back in 2013.
The results of these surveys point towards one thing and that is how BJP leaders at the centre and the state level have downplayed the gimmicks of the Congress leadership. Right from Prime Minister Modi offering flowers to the statue of saint Bassaveshwara in London, to the way in which Yeddyurappa’s stature in the state wing of the BJP has remained intact. These small measures will go a long way in deciding the fate of the upcoming elections in favour of the BJP.
Congress leaders will have to think of new strategies in order to please the Lingayat voter base in Karnataka. This will not be easy as they could end up harming their own voter base in the state if they go too far in the process. This survey will definitely increase the burden on Siddaramaiah and other Congress leaders. Congress leaders at the centre too should have reason to be worried after the survey, since Karnataka is, after all, the largest state in their hands as of today and one of the four to which they have been reduced to. The notion that it might be slipping away fast must be a nightmare for the Congress. Another step towards Congress-Mukt Baharat ?
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