The rainbow coalition stitched by the Congress has been key to the party’s resounding victory. While 70% of Muslims voted for the Congress, the party also received sizeable support from various castes, except the upper castes and the Lingayats. Among the Lingayats, 56% voted for the BJP and 29% voted for the Congress. There was no significant shift in the votes of the Lingayats away from the BJP though a prominent Lingayat leader of the BJP, Jagadish Shettar, quit the party and joined the Congress. Mr. Shettar was defeated in the Hubbali-Dharward Central Assembly constituency, which further indicates that he was unable to mobilise Lingayat votes in favour of the Congress. The BJP also enjoyed a massive lead over the Congress among upper caste voters. The OBC votes remained divided between the Congress (34%) and BJP (37%).
The Kuruba community, to which Congress leader Siddaramaiah belongs; the Dalit community, to which Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge belongs; and the Adivasis all voted for the Congress in large numbers. The Congress had enjoyed an advantage over its rivals among these communities even in previous elections, but this election saw a decisive shift in favour of the party. The shift among the Vokkaliga voters away from the JD(S) explains why the JD(S) performed badly this time. It also failed to retain the support of Muslims. These two communities were the backbone of the JD(S)’s support base in Karnataka, more so in in southern Karnataka, which accounts for 51 Assembly seats. Of these, in 2018, the JD(S) won 24 seats and polled 37.5%. But in 2023, its vote share went down to 29.5%.
Karnataka voters are clearly divided on caste-community lines, with the traditional Brahmin-Lingayat combination behind the BJP and the rest behind the Congress — a repeat of the Ahinda (minorities) social coalition.
Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Co-director Lokniti-CSDS