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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
HomeEditorialKarnataka chooses the Congress over communal BJP

Karnataka chooses the Congress over communal BJP

BJP's desperation to win forced them to declare Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial face and bring back the tainted Reddy brothers to campaign.

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siddaramiah, shivakumar, d k shivakumar, congress, rahul gandhi, gandhi, karnataka elections, karnataka, bjp, modi, narendra modi, reddy, south india, bjp rejected

Karnataka saw a striking turnout of 73% in this year’s elections. This was 2% higher than the voting percentage in 2018 (71.1%). This change is perhaps due to the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi. Women and young voters are believed to have exercised their franchise in large numbers on May 10. However, the turnout in the city of Bengaluru was not up to the mark, with only 54.8% casting their vote in Bengaluru Urban, lower than the 56% in 2018.

Despite many exit polls predicting a defeat, BJP leaders in Karnataka were very hopeful of winning the election. They believed that the last-minute surge in voter turnout was missed by pollsters and would help them retain the mandate. Several party functionaries have pointed out that most exit polls concluded by 3 pm and are inaccurate, while the polling percentage increased significantly afterwards. The fact is that most of the news channels are the pets of the BJP, but they could not change the narrative. The BJP and its favorite news channels also had the argument that those who came to the booths after 3 pm were not part of the exit polls, and therefore, the predictions of the pollsters may be inaccurate. But the reality is that Karnataka is not happy with the communal politics of the BJP.

Both the BJP and Congress generated a lot of buzz when they released their respective election manifestos for the state. The BJP promised to bring the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) to Karnataka after making similar vows in other states where polls were held recently. It also promised to provide three free cooking gas cylinders to all BPL families annually. Meanwhile, the Congress’s promise to ban the right-wing Bajrang Dal in its manifesto drew the ire of the BJP. The grand old party also promised free electricity and a monthly allowance to women and the unemployed. Somewhere, Karnataka wanted to come out of communal politics, and they found some solace in Congress promises.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have expectedly put in every possible effort and resource into the Karnataka election. Their desperation to win forced them to declare Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial face and bring back the tainted Reddy brothers to campaign. The desperation did not really work in their favor. The South, with 130 seats in the Lok Sabha, has become even more crucial because of the ground the BJP is losing in Uttar Pradesh. The loss of by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur—constituencies won and then vacated by the BJP’s Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister in UP—signalled the writing on the wall.

But despite its best efforts, the BJP had to lose in Karnataka. The 2011 census put the state’s population at 6.15 crore, out of which around 83% are Hindus, tempting one to conclude that the demography of Gujarat and Karnataka is not very different. However, in Karnataka, 17% of the population belongs to Scheduled Castes (SC) and 7% to Scheduled Tribes (ST). Besides, the Brahmanical order of the RSS leadership and the language barrier have also made the SC and STs in Karnataka more alienated from upper caste Hindus and even Lingayats.

Thus, the generalization that all Hindus prefer the BJP does not seem to work in the state. The Dalit-upper caste clashes of recent years in many BJP-ruled states and cases like the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula have also led SCs to have second thoughts about the BJP. Nor does the minority community, which constitutes 15% of the population, see the BJP, as the party of their choice. The smaller caste groups belonging to the OBC fold and comprising roughly a quarter of the population also don’t like the dominance of the big castes like Lingayats and Vokkaligas. This also weighs against the prospects of the BJP in Karnataka.

The BJP is still perceived as a North Indian party in the southern states, and the events of the past four years have cemented that perception. Be it the controversy over beef or the primacy of the Hindi language, the Modi government is seen as the force promoting the agenda of the RSS. The way of life defined by the RSS’s Hindutva is still somewhat alien to Kannadigas. What also works against the BJP is that North Indians living in Bengaluru and elsewhere in the state are largely youth who are uncomfortable with the moral policing done by Hindutva outfits. This section may well root for Narendra Modi as PM but is not necessarily enthusiastic about BJP rule in Karnataka.

Depending on dominant castes does not always fetch handsome political returns. The BJP itself has won several state elections by strategically distancing itself from the dominant castes and thus attracting smaller groups to come together and turn the table. The BJP distancing itself from the Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra, and Yadavs and Jatavs in Uttar Pradesh are some such examples. In Karnataka, however, the BJP’s strategy revolves around the Lingayats, who comprise 17% of the population and provide the party with its main support base. While the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the latter aligned with the JD(S), did determine electoral outcomes earlier, a rainbow coalition of smaller groups, minorities, and OBCs is likely to work better this time around.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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