Karnataka: Lingayats may not vote en bloc, but likely to prefer sub-castes

Lingayats are not voting en bloc and are talking of casting their franchise based on sub-castes like Lingayat Panchamsali, Lingayat Banajiga and Lingayat Ganiga.
Experts point out that BJP ignored social engineering while selecting candidates for the crucial polls.
Experts point out that BJP ignored social engineering while selecting candidates for the crucial polls.

BENGALURU: Ahead of the Phase-3 of Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday, BJP may have realised that the lion’s share of Lingayat support it enjoyed in many elections over the last few decades could be turning into a mirage.

Though BJP senior leader BS Yediyurappa, considered a Lingayat strongman, has been campaigning in all the 14 constituencies, the party has realised that it will be difficult to repeat the results of the last Lok Sabha elections when it won all the 14 seats in the region aided by Lingayats, who are the deciding factor in majority of seats.

Veerashaiva Mahasabha secretary Renuka Prasanna said, “Basava Nadu used to vote only for BJP, but the Lingayat community will not remain a homogenous vote bank for BJP forever. The previous election demonstrated that and this election too, it will be on show.’’

For starters, infighting in the party that is known for its discipline has been its biggest challenge. The party has struggled with the standoff between Lingayat leaders Madhuswamy and V Somanna, between Holalkere Chandrappa and Govinda Karjol in Chitradurga, Ananth Kumar Hegde and Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri in Uttara Kannada and Bhagwant Khuba and Prabhu Chavan in Bidar.

Adding to party’s troubles, Lingayat seer Dingaleshwara Swamiji too joined the fray initially, but later withdrew. But now, he has resumed addressing public meetings aimed solely at defeating Union minister Pralhad Joshi in the Dharwad constituency.

Also, Lingayats are not voting en bloc and are talking of casting their franchise based on sub-castes like Lingayat Panchamsali, Lingayat Banajiga and Lingayat Ganiga. Also, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s announcement of starting a university to study the Vachana literature and naming social reformer Basavanna as the cultural icon of Karnataka have softened the Lingayat stand towards Congress.

Experts point out that BJP ignored social engineering while selecting candidates for the crucial polls. It gave seats only to Lingayat, Brahmin and SC/STs, while completely ignoring representatives from other castes, who have a substantial vote share in the region.

In all the 14 constituencies, their candidates are either Lingayat or Brahmin. Wherever there is a reserved constituency, the ticket has been given to a representative from that community. BJP will also find it difficult to get votes of minorities, who constitute 12-20 per cent of the electorate in these constituencies.

Added to this is the sizeable OBC presence and BJP has always found it difficult to break into the Dalit vote base because of Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit from Kalaburagi, who is AICC president. This time, there could be the strongest consolidation ever of Dalit votes in favour of Congress, which BJP is realising in many constituencies.

Political analyst BS Murthy said, “BJP did not pay sufficient attention to its social engineering and that may not help the party because all candidates here are either Lingayat or Brahmin. There is no palpable wave in favour of BJP so far. Infighting and rebellion may cost the party dear. BJP has never looked this vulnerable in the last three polls.’’

A BJP functionary, requesting anonymity, said, “The party has always enjoyed the blessings of the Lingayat community. I agree that we may not sweep all 14 seats, but we still enjoy a solid advantage and support in North Karnataka. Also, don’t discount the Modi factor. I believe barring 3-4 seats, BJP will do well here. I believe Lingayats still prefer BJP.”

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