Bypolls see leaders perfecting their ‘caste maths’ skills

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai campaigning in Hangal Assembly constituency on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: SANJAY RITTI

It is no secret that caste calculations play a dominant role every step of the way in elections, starting with candidate selection to wooing voters. But the byelections to Sindgi and Hangal Assembly constituencies have elevated this to a new high. Wooing various castes is the most visible form of campaign in both the segments, while leaders are in the same breath also blaming others of being “casteist”.

At the very start of the process, in the Lingayat-dominant Hangal segment, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had to personally rush to Davangere to ensure withdrawal of the candidature of a former bureaucrat from the dominant Panchamasali sect.

Each to their own

Subsequently, Panchamasali Ministers and leaders from the BJP, including Murugesh Nirani and C.C. Patil, are leading the campaign in the constituency. In both Sindgi and Hangal, leaders and Ministers are making an all-out effort to woo the communities they belong to, even at the cost of inviting criticism for ignoring governance.

While the Congress and the JD(S) too are wooing specific caste groups, the BJP has been more “methodical” in its approach, with each worker being armed with a list of voters with a caste-wise break-up in a tabulated format. However, Minister Laxman Savadi, a Ganiga-Lingayat leader busy in Sindgi, insisted that the focus was on “nationalist spirit” and not caste. “Unlike theCongress and the JD(S), we are not appealing to any caste groups,” he said. The meetings he has been having with his community members were “not planned ones”, he claimed.

Though Congress workers do not have a any checklist to go with, they have not fallen behind in deputing community leaders to villages and hoblis that have a high concentration from their respective communities. The Congress is relying heavily on Siddaramaiah and his team to work in places that have a concentration of OBC communities.

‘Why hide?’

Some Congress leaders openly admitted to their caste-specific campaign. “We are touring villages that are dominated by SC communities. Leaders such as Prakash Rathod are touring Lambani tandas. Why hide the fact?” asked Congress leader Shankar Rao Doddi in Sindgi.

“Elections and caste politics are interrelated. This is a hard reality. We can not wish it away,” said Asad Alimoddi, JD(S) minority cell leader from Sindgi. The JD(S) had prepared a list of leaders of various communities and deputed them to pockets of their influence. Turning the “casteism” argument on its head, he added, “It shows that our party has space for leaders from all communities.”

On Twitter

Meanwhile, on Twitter and while talking to the press, there is an unceasing war of words between the BJP and the Congress about “caste politics”. While the BJP and the JD(S) have, significantly, trained their guns on Mr. Siddaramaiah in their accusations of “casteism” and efforts to “divide communities”, the latter has been tweeting and making speeches accusing the former two of being “hypocrites” when it comes to addressing issues of caste.

Interestingly, there is also plenty to be seen in terms of optics. Mr. Bommai was seen wearing a “kambali” (a traditional rug symbolising Kurubas) on his shoulder while addressing the community to which Mr. Siddaramaiah belongs. This was followed by a war of words between the two on the “entitlement” to wear such a caste symbol.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 4:47:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bypolls-see-leaders-perfecting-their-caste-maths-skills/article37182398.ece

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