Candidate selection by all the three major parties for the elections to 25 seats of the Legislative Council shows an overwhelmingly presence of Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the two politically dominant castes in Karnataka. The two communities together account for over 60% of the ticket issued by the parties while only one Scheduled Caste (SC) candidate and two Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates are in the fray.
If Lingayats have dominated the political narrative in the Krishna basin in north Karnataka, Vokkaligas have remained dominant in the Cauvery basin in the south Karnataka region. Candidate selection by the ruling BJP, and the Opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) shows this pattern.
In Cauvery basin
With the predominantly Vokkaliga vote base, the JD(S) has restricted its electoral battle to the Cauvery basin districts by announcing candidates for six seats, the Congress and the BJP have fielded candidates in 20 seats each. Both the BJP and the Congress have fielded only one candidate each in the five dual-member constituencies of Mysuru, Hubballi–Dharwad, Dakshina Kannada, Belagavi, and Vijaypura–Bagalkot.
An analysis of the total of 46 candidates fielded by the three parties has shown the lion’s share in allotment of the ticket to candidates from Lingayat and Vokkaliga comunities. Across parties, as many as 16 candidates are Vokkaligas and 14 are Lingayats, cornering 65.21%. Individually, 34.78% are Vokkaligas while 30.43% are Lingayats. In all, there are nine OBCs (19.56%) and two Muslim and ST candidates each (4.34%) fielded by these parties. There is only on one SC candidate (2.17%).
“The main reason behind this is lack of reservation for the deprived classes in the Upper House of the legislature unlike in the Lower House,” said Vaijanath Suryavanshi, Dalit ideologue and the founding member of Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharsha Samiti. The Upper House in Uttar Pradesh has such provisions. Muniswamy Gopinath, BSP general secretary, said, “We will start an agitation in Karnataka for similar provisions.”
In northern parts
In north Karnataka region (including Uttara Kannada) where the BJP is contesting in eight seats, seven have gone to Lingayats, which shows the community’s clout in the party that has been banking on Lingayat votes. The lone non-Lingayat contesting from the BJP in north Karnataka is Ganapati Ulvekar from Uttara Kannada, an OBC.
In southern Karnataka (including Dakshin Kannada and Udupi), Vokkaligas have grabbed a bigger share across all parties. The BJP has fielded six Vokkaligas in the community heartland, and two Lingayats. It has given the ticket to two OBCs, and one each from Arya Vysya and Kodava comminites for the other four seats.
Congress ticket distribution is slightly more even here. In the 12 seats the Congress is contesting, five Vokkaligas have been given the ticket along with four OBCs and one candidate each of SC, ST, and Muslim communities. The predominantly Vokkaliga-backed party, the JD(S) has chosen Vokkaliga candidates to contest in five of the six seats it is contesting. It has also given the ticket to an ST candidate.
“Some people argue that the Constitution does not have provisions for caste- based representation in the Upper House. But in a welfare state, political parties can give ticket to members of deprived communities and ensure that the dominant castes are not over-represented,” said Rohit Latur, a constitutional lawyer and labour rights activist.