Karnataka bypolls: Wooing caste groups is the name of the game

The bypoll-bound Sindgi Assembly constituency has seen a lot of political action over the past fortnight — visibly in terms of high-decibel campaign and less visibly in terms of caste calculations and strategies being worked out by political parties.

As far as the BJP is concerned, much focus seems to be on targeting specific community voters in a methodical way. For instance, even before he was deputed in-charge in Sindgi, Lakshman Savadi, former Deputy Chief Minister, held a few meetings with the Ganiga Lingayats with the aim of ending internal differences that arose during the local polls in a bid to convince them to vote for Ramesh Bhusnur, the BJP candidate and a community leader.

This subsect is said to constitute about 25% of the voting population in this constituency in Vijayapura district. “They are the largest group of voters in the constituency. The next three blocks are Scheduled Castes, Panchamasali Lingayats, and Muslims,” according to a BJP leader. Interestingly, Basavanneppa Ganiger, a community leader, said that a sizeable number think that Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to Modh Ghanchi caste of oil pressers, which is similar to the Ganiga community in Karnataka.

The BJP has distributed copies of an Excel sheet with details of various caste groups among its campaigners. There is no source cited for this “data”, but it is widely used as a ballpark figure for campaigns. A BJP worker said it was based on police records and was “nearly correct”.

AHINDA votes

The Congress, on the other hand, is upbeat that its nominee Ashok Managuli, a Panchamasali, can draw voted from the community and beyond. But unlike the BJP, Congress strategists or workers are not working with any “data sheets”. They are banking on the assumption that the AHINDA groups (minorities, OBCs and Dalits) would also vote for the party. “Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has visited the constituency twice. He is likely to come again and hold meetings with AHINDA leaders,” said a leader. Senior Congress leaders are holding meetings of micro-communities in OBC group, said the leader.

Their candidate is the son of previous MLA Mallappa Channaveerappa Managuli, who was with the JD(S). His death while in office necessitated the bypoll. The Congress has been saying that the late leader wanted his son to join the party and had made an emotional appeal for it — a claim denied by the JD(S). Interestingly, in the 2018 Assembly polls, the senior Managuli was the only JD(S) winner in the district of Vijayapura; all others were from the BJP.

The BJP is hoping that the JD(S), which has fielded Najiya Angadi, a Muslim candidate, will significantly reduce the Congress vote share. “However, we are working to see that the secular vote base is not disturbed. Voting for the JD(S) would lead to the BJP’s win,” said Syed Mallik Sandal, a member of the local Muttahida Mahaj, a federation of voters. He said Muslims in Sindgi were upset with the treatment of Tablighi Jamaat during the COVID-19 first wave. A lot of Tablighi members from Sindgi had attended the meeting in New Delhi. “The police hounded them and the community has not forgotten this,” Mr. Mallik said. However, leaders of other Jamaats that The Hindu spoke to did not share this opinion.

Mr. Asad Alimoddin, JD(S) leader, stoutly denied allegations that the JD(S) was trying to help the BJP by cutting into the secular vote share. “We are not here to help anyone. We are here to show that a Muslim woman can be elected from North Karnataka,” he claimed.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:24:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-bypolls-wooing-caste-groups-is-the-name-of-the-game/article37155173.ece

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