Karnataka 2018

The Lingayat gamble fails

Siddaramaiah’s hopes dashed as BJP retains its votebank among community

The Karnataka Cabinet’s decision to recommend religious minority status to Lingayats, a numerically significant community and a traditional BJP votebank, seems to have failed to bring votes to the Congress. In fact, it might have even backfired.

This was evident in how the BJP swept Bombay Karnataka and Central Karnataka regions dominated by Lingayats. While in Bombay Karnataka, the BJP won 30 of the 50 seats, reducing the Congress tally to 17, from 31 in 2013, in Central Karnataka out of 36 seats, the BJP increased its tally from three to 15 even as the Congress dropped from 19 to 13. In Hyderabad Karnataka too, the BJP improved its tally from 10 to 15, though the Congress still retained a lead with 21 out of 40 seats.

In the run-up to the polls, the Lingayat row was touted as the most important point of discussion among the voters, particularly in northern Karnataka, the Lingayat heartland, after the State Cabinet decided to recommend minority religion tag for Lingayats and not Lingayat-Veerashaiva as was demanded.

There was mudslinging among different seers of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community and the leaders within the Congress. Though the Congress was not very optimistic of its impact on Lingayat voters, insiders had indicated that they were hoping for a 5% swing in the vote share. However, it is evident that was not the case.

An important marker of this was that three of the four prominent Lingayat Ministers in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet, who led the movement — Vinay Kulkarni, Basavaraj Rayaraddi and Sharan Prakash Patil — lost badly. The only other Minister to make it was M.B. Patil, who had turned out to be the face of the movement from the Congress. This despite vociferous attempts by Veerashaiva seers to defeat him.

While Mr. Patil’s election disproves the argument that all the Ministers who fought for the Lingayat cause have suffered a setback, not all those who stood with the Veerashaiva seers (who opposed the State Cabinet decision) on the issue, were lucky either.

S.S. Mallikarjun, another Minister and son of president of the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, suffered a defeat, while his father won. The general secretary of the Mahasabha and Minister in the Siddaramaiah Cabinet, Eshwar Khandre, who stood with the Veerashaiva seers and had a bitter disagreement on the issue with his Cabinet colleagues, won the election.

An insider said that it would be wrong to say that the issue backfired on the Congress, but its impact was clearly nullified by the counter campaign of followers of Veerashaiva seers as well as the BJP and the RSS that the “Congress is dividing Hindu society.”

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 3:52:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/karnataka-2018/karnataka-assembly-poll-results-the-lingayat-gamble-failed/article23896190.ece

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