With votes in EVMs for 14 out of 28 constituencies, focus now shifts to North Karnataka for May 7 polls

The way the dominant Lingayat-Veerashaiva community will vote is being watched keenly

Updated - April 27, 2024 03:47 pm IST

Published - April 26, 2024 10:26 pm IST - Bengaluru

Para swimmer K.S. Vishwas gets indelible ink applied on his feet at Govindarajanagar polling station in Bengaluru on Friday.

Para swimmer K.S. Vishwas gets indelible ink applied on his feet at Govindarajanagar polling station in Bengaluru on Friday. | Photo Credit: ANI

With the high-pitched battles in the South Karnataka’s Vokkaliga-dominated Old Mysore constituencies and the coastal constituencies coming to an end on Friday, the battleground will now shift to North and Central Karnataka regions that will go into polling on May 7 as part of the third phase.

After the State witnessed closely fought contests in Mandya, Hassan, and Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituencies where high-profile contestants, including former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, Prajwal Revanna, and D.K. Suresh were involved, the turf war for the BJP and the Congress will be in Mumbai Karnataka and Kalyana Karnataka regions where the land owning Veerashaiva-Lingayats dominate the political narratives. The BJP, which draws its strength from the support of Veerashaiva-Lingayats, currently holds all the 14 constituencies.

Importantly, while the JD(S) was a key player in South Karnataka, it has a limited influence in North Karnataka barring a few pockets of Kalyana Karnataka region.

What parties claim

Of the 14 constituencies in South Karnataka that went into polls, the Congress would win 10 seats, up from one in 2019, party president and Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar claimed, post the elections. He also claimed that the Congress would win another 10 seats out of 14 in North Karnataka, echoing similar sentiments aired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who said that there was no “Modi wave.” Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly R. Ashok claimed that the NDA would win 12 out of 14 seats based on the “image of Narendra Modi” and failure of the Congress government in Karnataka.

However, sources in JD(S), which is in alliance with the BJP, indicated that the alliance could win eight to 10 seats in the first phase, while conceding that the Congress has put up a formidable fight on the ground, making the poll prospects calculation difficult in several constituencies. Sources also conceded that the squabbling within the saffron party in multiple constituencies were evident on ground during campaigning and have brought headaches to the candidates.

Internal squabbles

The situation is no different for the BJP in some constituencies in North Karnataka where internal squabbling has hit headlines. The rumblings may have come down but the undercurrents could have a negative impact on the party that has dominated the political space in the region for over a decade. Among the big names in the fray include two former Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai (Haveri) and Jagadish Shettar (Belagavi), Union Ministers Pralhad Joshi (Dharwad) and Bhagawant Khuba (Bidar).

Like in South Karnataka, where the Congress seems to have succeeded in driving home the guarantee narratives among large number of caste groups and the economically weaker sections as a challenge to the BJP’s election strategy of pushing the Mr. Modi’s Hindutva and development agenda, the parties are likely to up the ante on similar lines in the North Karnataka too.

While all eyes are on the way the Veerashaiva-Lingayats votes would sway, the votes of most backward classes seem to be important. Here the Congress is hoping for complete consolidation of Kuruba and Muslim votes. Besides caste calculations, Hindutva rhetoric, Congress government guarantees, ‘Modi ki guarantee’, and ‘step motherly’ attitude of the Centre narrative playing out, the drought conditions could also impact poll outcome in this region marked by vast areas of dry, arid lands.

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