Through back-to-back elections in some region or other, Indian voters regularly give their feedback to various policies, schemes and governance structure of the respective governing bodies. In these elections, voters have a rich bouquet of a wide range of issues on which every party wants to present itself on solid footing. No political party wants their competitor go unchallenged on any electoral issue.
Now, the Karnataka assembly elections are around the corner. Through this article we will highlight the voting pattern and how voters’ preferences have shaped over the years in different zones of Karnataka.
Understanding the election dynamics of Karnataka
For electoral understanding, Karnataka can be clubbed into six regions owing to their historical similarities. The total of 224 assembly constituencies in Karnataka are distributed in the following six regions. These regions are colloquially popular as: Hyderabad Karnataka (40/224 seats), Bombay Karnataka (50/224), Central Karnataka (26/224), Coastal Karnataka (19/224), Southern Karnataka or Old Mysore (Mysuru) region (61/224) and Bengaluru region (28/224).
The state has a diverse representation of voters who cast their vote on varied issues. Some of the major electoral issues include ones that directly have local bearing or community’s representation in governance bodies, Hindutva, development or on the bases of Linguistic tilt.
As per voting bloc, Karnataka has five influential voting communities namely Lingayat (14%), Vokkaliga (11%), Muslim (16%), SC/ST (19.5%) and Kurubas (9%). According to past election analysis, these communities had been predominantly voting en-masse to their preferred parties. But in past assembly, Lok Sabha and by-polls elections, the saffron party, BJP, has stirred this template voting pattern.
For a very long time, BJP has been meticulously planning to make a sizable dent in Congress and JDS’ vote share. BJP has received success in making inroads in constituencies that were earlier considered as Congress or JDS bastions. For example, in by-elections, BJP won the Sindgi seat which was seen as JDS bastion.
Community wise voting trends and their political issues
Election is a complex process, so is guessing the wind direction in a multi-cornered contest. But as per the things currently poised, the Karnataka assembly election seems to be a different ball game for BJP.
Analysis of past election results suggest that Lingayats have been electorally strengthening BJP. Barring a few voters, the entire community has been standing steadfast with BJP stalwart B.S. Yediyurappa, the biggest Lingayat leader in the election fray.
Similarly, Muslims have been voting en-masse to JDS. Being a regional party, JDS has always tried to cash on rhetorical local issues and playing insider vs outsider and anti-North Indian cards among others.
Further, Congress on account of Siddaramaiah, party’s tallest Kuruba leader, in the past had received majority of votes from Kuruba community. Election analysis further suggests that the majority of SC/ST voters have been entrusting Congress.
On region wise analysis, a peculiar trend emerges
In past elections, in Hyderabad Karnataka, linguistic issues had impacted election results. SC/ST and Telugu speakers being a predominant voting community here, made Congress a dominant player in this region.
Similarly, Bombay Karnataka is hailed as Lingayat belt that has predominantly swayed towards BJP. However, the purported reports of internal party rifts within the BJP Karnataka unit may negatively impact the party, if it fails to tackle the issue tactfully. Otherwise, things can go out of hand and the opposition can cash in on this in-fighting.
Going ahead, Coastal Karnataka is claimed to be the hotbed for Hindutva politics. BJP has been the major player in this region. But in the past few weeks, BJP has seen a strange opposition. The party is facing irk of Pramod Muthalik, the head of Rashtriya Hindu Sena. So, if BJP wants to repeat its past performance in this region, it has to quell any possible opposition or division in Hindutva politics.
As per current and past trends, BJP is in an advantageous position in the Bengaluru region where Kannada as well as North Indian voters have equal sway. Similarly, Central Karnataka has been yielding mixed results.
But the major challenge for BJP will be in the Southern Karnataka or Old Mysore (Mysuru) region. H. D. Deve Gowda ( Vokkaliga) and Siddaramaiah (Kurwas) hail from this region. On account of that, the region has seen a tough fight between Congress and JD(S). For example, in 2013, Congress dominated the Southern Karnataka region. So, a repeat of BJP’s government will not be possible without winning sizable seats in this Congress/JD(S) dominated region.
The Vokkaliga factor and purported grievances of Lingayat voters on ‘negligence’ or sidelining of Yediyurappa
However, there is a huge split in the Vokkaliga community which has been switching sides between JDS and DK Shiva Kumar-led Congress. Both JDS leaders H. D. Deve Gowda, H. D. Kumaraswamy and Congress leader DK Shiva Kumar hails from Vokkaliga community. Apart from this division of Vokkaliga voters between JD(S) and Congress, BJP too has been trying to woo the voters of Vokkaliga community.
Apart from installing the statue of Bengaluru founder Kempegowda, the BJP government has created a corporation for Vokkaliga welfare. Additionally, the party has taken a policy to increase the community’s reservation.
The saffron party has been carrying out several outreach programmes to persuade voters of the Vokkaliga community. The party has even given the tickets to noted people from the Vokkaliga community in the Hassan and Mandya districts. Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a large rally in the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya. In his rally, Home Minister Shah launched scathing attacks against Congress and JDS.
This rally has political significance as Mandya falls in the Old Mysuru region. Here the traditional electoral fight has been between Congress and JD(S). Through such rallies BJP wants to project itself as the first choice for Vokkaliga voters. It had another political significance as the stalwart of BJP, Karnataka Ex-CM Yediyurappa comes from the land of Mandya.
Congress’ loss is BJP’s gain and Saffron party’s strategy to win the crucial state election
Just like in other states, Congress Karnataka unit is a divided house with its Senior leaders working in different directions on account of their personal ambitions of becoming state’s CM. Earlier, Congress had seen the emergence of a third camp in the state in the form of Kharge camp. The party was already stuck in the in-fighting of Former CM Siddaramaiah and its state President DK Shiva Kumar.
Now, G. Parameshwara emerging as the fourth contender in the fray for CM post, Congress has too much on its plate right before the state elections.
Contrary to that, BJP has been trying to close the possible rifts within the party. Karnataka’s CM Baswaraj Bommai as well as every Senior leader knows the influence of B.S. Yediyurappa and hence wouldn’t want to stir the hornet’s nest in the wee hours of state assembly elections. However, it has to put a leash on certain state leaders who are fueling such rumours. BJP has to plan accordingly so that it avoids the negative PR on coincidental absence of Yediyurappa in party’s key rallies and events.
Further, BJP would want to cash in on the positive image of its two stalwarts – regional face Yediyurappa and progressive imagery of PM Narendra Modi. It is being reported that, to quell all possible reports of rifts, BJP stalwart Yediyurappa may undertake a large rally throughout the state campaigning for BJP.
In addition to these factors, PM Modi has been undertaking a slew of development works. This will include the inaugurations of IIT Dharwad and farmer convention hall. To give impetus to development, PM Modi will himself inaugurate the country’s first Technology & Innovation Museum of India in Bengaluru. As stated above, to boost the rich cultural and historical heritage of the state, PM Modi had earlier unveiled the 108 feat statue of Bengaluru founder Kempegowda.
BJP can win the fort provided it manifest the local public demands
The below attached table shows the results of past six assembly elections. From the table, it is pretty evident that JD(S) is on a downswing and has nothing constructive to offer for the voters other than its regional rhetoric. Its vote share has been fluctuating between mid-20s which isn’t enough for it to make its government in the state.
BJP Seats, Vote share
JDS Seats, vote Share
Congress Seats, Votes
40, 20% ( BJP +Yeddyurappa’s KJP)
Having said that, BJP will have to up its ante and make sure that it ties its loose ends. Although the past experience of JD(S) and Congress alliance were worse to say the least, yet, in case of fractured mandate, both may again forge alliance to keep BJP out of power. So, BJP has to plan for the worst-case scenario and aim for 50% plus vote share if it wants to ensure for all contingencies.
The Vokkaliga outreach, PM Modi’s development push and the possible rally by Yediyurappa for BJP campaign highlight that the party has taken these issues seriously and is planning its course ahead accordingly.
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