Yeddyurappa’s exit is likely to hamper the chances of the BJP in this region

The north Karnataka districts which played a pivotal role in turning the tide in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party in State politics, are likely to play a crucial role again in deciding the future of this very party in the Assembly elections.

It was the decisive vote in favour of the BJP in 2008 in this region that enabled the party to come to power in the State. Of the 96 seats in the 12 undivided districts of north Karnataka, the BJP, for the first time, won 41 in the 2004 elections. In the 2008 elections, it won a record 56 seats.

However, much has happened since the 2008 Assembly elections and the popularity of the BJP has taken a beating on account of internal bickering and the virtual split in the party after the exit of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who joined the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). It was the consolidation of the Lingayat votes in favour of the BJP in the last elections that helped the BJP make inroads into north Karnataka districts, which were once considered a Congress bastion.

The BJP’s dominance appeared complete in the Bombay Karnataka region and was limited to few pockets in the Hyderabad Karnataka region. However, the exit of Mr. Yeddyurappa, who has considerable influence among the Lingayat community, and influential leaders such as C.M. Udasi joining forces with Mr Yeddyurappa is likely to do more damage to the BJP in the Bombay Karnataka region in the coming elections. Even in the Hyderabad Karnataka region, the party’s influence among the voters is on the wane due to the absence of an influential leader among the Lingayats.

The BJP’s growth is always attached to support it got from the north Karnataka districts. Even when the party for the first time won 18 seats in the State, north Karnataka contributed 11 seats. In the 1989 elections, 50 per cent of the seats won by BJP was from north Karnataka districts and the same trend more or less continued in the subsequent elections.

An analysis of the election results from 1985 of Karnataka reveals some interesting facts of how the north Karnataka districts played a pivotal role in the formation of the government by a particular political party. It was the north Karnataka districts which helped the Janata Party led by the late Ramakrishna Hegde to return to power with a comfortable majority by electing 60 MLAs of the total 139 and again in 1989 elections, the voters tilted the scales in favour of the Congress and helped it bounce back to power after a gap of six years.

In the 1989 elections, the Congress, led by the late Veerendra Patil won 176 of the 224 seats and of this the contribution of north Karnataka was 68. It was also the last election for the Congress to have won so many seats from north Karnataka districts and the beginning of the losing of its ground to Opposition parties, particularly the Janata Dal and the JP. In the 1994 elections, the Congress could win only 22 seats from north Karnataka districts and in 1999, when the party was returned back to power with 132 seats, the contribution of north Karnataka districts to the Congress kitty was 60 seats. Again in 2004 elections, the party slumped back to win only 24 seats in north Karnataka districts out of the total 65 seats which it had won.

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