Never before in the political history of Karnataka have the elections been as unpredictable and the campaign as acrimonious as it is in the ongoing polls in May 2018.
The North Karnataka region in general and Mumbai-Karnataka and parts of Central Karnataka regions in particular consisting of 11 districts with 89 seats hold the key to the formation of the government with a solid 66 seats c0ming from seven districts alone.
This has been the phenomenon right from the day an unified Karnataka was formed. The reason being the predominance of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community in the Mumbai Karnataka region and sizeable number spread across the rest of North Karnataka.
The districts of Belagavi, Uttara Kannada, Vijayapura, Bagalkote, Gadag, Haveri and Hubballi-Dharwad coupled with Davanagere and Chitradurga hold the key.
The biggest strength of the undivided Janata Dal was the strong backing of the Lingayat community from North Karnataka because of which the party won 1994 elections.
The emergence of B.S. Yeddyurappa as a Lingayat strongman in BJP and the shift of loyalty by Ramakrishna Hegde from Janata Dal towards NDA in 1999 (after his expulsion from the party in 1996) paved the way for the Lingayat community’s shift towards the BJP. The BJP won 79 seats in 2004 and 110 seats in 2008, just three short of simple majority.
That this impressive haul of 110 seats by the BJP under Yeddyurappa was solely because of the Lingayat factor needs no repetition. Interestingly, the BJP which won 110 seats in 2008 had drawn a blank in six districts in Old-Mysore region, reinforcing the fact that the BJP’s draws its entire strength from the Lingayat community.
It is for this reason the Congress decided to break the monolithic Lingayat community, cut Yeddyurappa to size and prevent him from being the sole beneficiary of this highly-literate and politically-conscious community. Whoever wins the north, wins the state..
(S.A. Hemanth Kumar is a political analyst)
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