Karnataka will soon go for assembly elections in 2018 and that would mean a precarious play of caste politics precipitating into demonic proportions, The political stakeholders will leave no stone unturned to appease and apportion the masses pointblank into assortments of Dalit votes, Vokkaliga votes, Lingayat votes or Muslim votes, while development remains a casualty at the hands of caste politics with no real insights into the welfare of Karnataka or its people.
Such political packages are not new to this 9th most populous state with a 83% Hindu population where the proponents of Ahinda reign by congregating an alliance of Christians, Muslims, SC/STs along with their loyal base voters even as regional parties like JDS play peekaboo by occasionally hopping with the BJP and harnessing with the Congress, only to have the last laugh by splitting secularism to its thinnest form with their blatant Muslim appeasement declarations.
Till the late nineties people of Karnataka were not even aware that there existed something called as a Lingayat Votebank or a Vokkaliga Votebank until it was entrenched into the minds of the masses and the polity, through repeated caste based electoral analysis and media campaigns that this 28-30% of people put together actually wield more power than anybody else.
So who really are these Vokkaligas and Lingayats whose caste clout is made out to be a triumph card in Karnataka politics?
The Vokkaliga or the Gowda community were rich farmers or landlords who owned large chunks of agricultural lands, who with the onset of IT boom turned into real estate dons by mostly annexing/buying out lands of individual destitute farmers. Typically the name Gowda was often given to village administrative heads that held social and political powers in the village. The Lingayats are a closely knit vegetarian Shaivite community who believe in the worship of the Istalinga that they don on their bodies. They are vehemently guided by their gurus who also influence their political choices. The Lingayat mutts run many educational institutions, hospitals and do not hesitate to openly endorse political candidates from their community, their religious and business matters mostly remain beyond the reach of government regulations.
The caste calculations and all their political considerations cannot be ignored but certainly it cannot become the only criteria to climb up the political ladders and even the political pundits are definitely aware of it, so how did this caste clout come into being or is it just an overhyped myth ingrained into the minds by continuous and consistent propaganda?
If this clout really existed why then did a Lingayat stalwart leader like Yediyurappa when representing KJP get only 6 seats in the 2013 elections when the same Yediyurappa had driven the BJP to garner a whopping 110 seats in the 2008 elections? Or why did a Vokkaliga Kumaraswamy or Krishna lose?
The electoral strategists should remember that, when people of Karnataka came out in large numbers in 2008 to show Kumaraswamy his place, it was a decisive response for his treacherous betrayal for refusing to descend the coalition throne and not because of any Lingayat fervor because it was the same people who when let down by the musical chair of chief ministers during the Yediyurappa tenure, ensured that the BJP get to taste their own bitter recipe in 2013.
The internal rifts in the Karnataka BJP might have at best calmed down or played down by evening out the creases of caste politics but a careful calibration about the future of ideology based politics leaves one jittery especially in a scenario where appropriation of ideology is the new normal. If the BJP is wooing the Dalit faction, the Congress’s Siddaramaiah is wooing the Lingayats offering his proposals to make Veerashaiva Lingayat a separate religion while simultaneously saying that nobody can stop him from having beef!
In the zest for empowering social justice system and zeal for unanimous expansion it should not so happen that we fall into the ploy of the breaking India forces to create newer cults! And this is precisely why the politics of caste and ideological appropriations is a two edged sword with no definite scope for the survival of the fittest as it turns that the fittest could also be filthiest!
The politics of Southern India is slightly a different ball game as many people don’t have an idea about ideology and believe in personality cults, hero worships, assumed sub caste mascots, regional cards that could influence voters or atleast that is what they are made out to be, but what the BJP is missing out is that – it is precisely because of these very factors being played out of proportion which is antagonizing the base voters who are fast losing faith in the leadership as they have seen that such crass display of caste identity politics has wobbled and weaned away any scope of progressive change in the past and the people are skeptical with little enthusiasm for the future with abject bankruptcy of leadership staring in the face!
While the Siddaramaiah government is blatantly playing appeasement politics of Ahinda, 9 out of 10 Kannada news channels announced today that an anti-Dalit Modi’s BJP is playing votebank politics in presidential elections by pitching a Dalit candidate!
Most Kannada news channels today are owned by the regional political parties or the left where news is just tokenism to their paymasters, but even with that sub-standard quality they are certainly making a mark on the targeted audience while the Karnataka BJP’s Kannada social media (local news) reach is abysmal if not alarming and most of the regional media spokespersons are ideologically bankrupt, acting as agents for a sure shot disastrous recipe!
As a matter of fact the Congress is clear about who its real voters are and has been pursuing schemes like providing insurance for auto drivers, cleaners, sweepers and catering to unorganized workers, it has come up with Vasathi Bhagya – an initiative to make a huts free society, by providing houses to Dalits, it is another thing that amidst these populist Ahinda initiatives the Congress Government has let loose the soul harvesters to reap as much as possible with the backing of powerful minsters like K.J. George, against whose atrocities the BJP has not even raised its little finger!
But what is to be noted is that the Congress is steadily working on inspiring existing and prospective voters to turn out in large numbers which is almost absent in other parties so far.
While the politics of the Karnataka Congress is a ‘Two birds with one stone hit’ policy where they enforce and evangelize at the same time in the name of populist schemes, setting up separatist identities for Dalits, minorities and possibly every other faction to reap the political dividends as and when they please, the JDS as they seem, one is not even sure if it can even be called a political party as illegal mining and land grabbing is their sole credential that makes them more powerful even when not in power. Not that the Congress or the BJP ministers have not been involved in mining cases but struck amidst them is the BJP that comes out as a lesser corrupt but complaining poor little puny kid who knows not how to get back his candy and only relies on the other’s nonexistent morality or lack of intelligence.
It is paradoxical that Governments after Governments talk about pro-farmer policies but also announce schemes like Anna Bhagya where the rice that was grown by the blood and sweat of the farmer is given away at Re. 1 to the alleged BPL families. In spite of the tall loan waivers, interest free loans, low rate of interests for farmer loans (Karnataka is the lowest with 3% interest) if farmer are committing suicide then the whole pro-farmer stand of the state politicians is a blatant farce played out for rice bag politics. The Congress that boasts of Governance with accountability, transparency and innovation has its hands tainted with corruption, murders and scams and has led the state into a debt that equals or even exceeds its budget. While the rural areas face neglect and are destitute in drought with never ending infighting for basic amenities like water, power, sanitation and drainage systems and good education, the urban slaves continue to wade through potholed and garbage stricken narrow roads with poor drainage systems and shaky footpaths, struck in interminable traffic, burning lakes, breathing poisonous air, purchasing borewell waters, paying bribes, facing unruly power outages feeling unsafe as they watch honest upright officers allegedly committing suicides, setting in an atmosphere where speaking against the system would invite the ire of angry uneducated politicians.
Ideally in such an anti-incumbent situation the change of guard should be seen as an overwhelmingly welcoming wait but strangely that does not seem to be the case on ground as people are really fed up of the same set of lackluster and visionless corrupt polity being thrust at them time and again like a vicious cycle of cynicism, that the present day state politics no more inspires the common man.
So this time around, those ambitious to win will be better off without plummeting into the caste battles and offer what they can bring about differently, as all caste and no change makes Jack a dull boy! So it’s time to speak up and share vehemently as to what that change would really mean to the common man!