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Political parties in Karnataka get competitive in vying for Muslim votes

This is starkly visible in Kalyana Karnataka and coastal regions where there are several more players than elsewhere

January 26, 2023 12:10 pm | Updated 12:10 pm IST - Bengaluru

Muslims women exercise their votes in Doddamaghatta  polling station in Bhadravati taluk of Shivamogga during the 2013 Assembly elections.

Muslims women exercise their votes in Doddamaghatta polling station in Bhadravati taluk of Shivamogga during the 2013 Assembly elections. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Ahead of the Legislative Assembly elections in Karnataka, a slew of political parties, including Opposition Congress and the JD(S), are in one-upmanship mode in making promises to court Muslim votes. Whether this will lead to splintering of votes and how it will impact the results remains to be seen.

Muslims constitute approximately around 13% of the population in Karnataka. The community is significant in close to 40 constituencies and plays a key factor in at least 70 segments.

In the 2018 elections, the Congress and JD(S) fielded 17 Muslim candidates each. Of them, seven Congress candidates made it to the Assembly, while the JD(S) drew a blank. The BJP did not field Muslim candidates in 2018.

The big three

Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah recently announced that ₹10,000 crore would be allocated each year for the welfare of Muslims if the party is voted to power. Generally, annual allocation for welfare of minorities has been around ₹3000 crore.

JD(S) leader and former chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy stated that his party is open to appointing a Muslim leader as chief minister if it comes to power. The party has already appointed veteran leader C.M. Ibrahim as the State president. It has also launched an intensive campaign lashing out at the BJP on the ruling party’s communal agenda.

The BJP, too, which has faced flak over the last year for allegedly targeting the Muslim community, has urged its cadre to “reach out” to Muslims and other religious minorities following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal. A few days ago, former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa said that Mr. Modi had advised BJP leaders to make efforts to take Muslims into confidence.

Coastal, Kalyana Karnataka regions

In the Kalyana Karnataka (KK) and coastal regions, several smaller outfits are making a bid for Muslim votes. Former minister and mining baron G Janardhana Reddy, who started his second innings in politics by floating a new party, Kalyana Rajya Pragati Paksha (KRPK), visited the Ajmer Darga and offered special prayers. Mr. Reddy has apparently promised to field a good number of Muslim candidates in Ballari, Vijayanagar, Raichur and Koppal districts to test political waters.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which are largely seen as minority community vote bank parties, are expected to field candidates in the KK and coastal/malnad regions. The electoral contest is bound to get tighter by the likely entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Left parties.

It remains to be seen whether KPPK, AIMIM, SDPI, AAP and NCP which are likely to raise communal issues targeting the ruling BJP, become “vote-cutters” in the Assembly polls as in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and other north Indian states. Its impact on Congress is to watched for.

The aspirants

A total 105 Muslim aspirants of the Congress have submitted applications seeking tickets to contest forthcoming polls. Leaders of the community have been demanding seats in 28 constituencies. The JD(S) too is likely to field Muslim candidates in two dozen segments, sources told The Hindu.

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