BJP, Karnataka, infighting, Yatnal, Bommai
There seems to be a proxy war going on between the Yediyurappa camp and the supporters of BL Santosh. (File photo)

2023 Karnataka polls: BJP goes all out to woo Vokkaligas and OBCs

With just months left for the Karnataka Assembly elections, the state BJP unit is going all out to woo the key powerful castes and communities in the state. Besides pushing the Hindutva agenda, they also hope Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and hold over the public will also play a role in helping them defeat the opposition.

The BJP in Karnataka, however, is a divided house and faces an uphill task this election. There is a leadership crisis in the party after the ouster of BS Yediyurappa as chief minister. The anti-incumbency factor is also expected to weigh in during the elections.

A senior BJP leader in the state told The Federal, “We hope to cash in on PM Modi’s image and popularity and at the same time, we are hoping to win over the key communities in the state.”

Wooing the Lingayats

Lingayats are the state’s single-largest community, at nearly 17 per cent of the population, mostly in the north Karnataka region, and are known to be firm supporters of the BJP and Yediyurappa. The community can determine the outcome of polls in as many as 90-100 of the state’s 224 assembly constituencies.

Though the Lingayat community is a strong voter base for the BJP, election strategists in the party felt a small percentage of Lingayats have shifted to the Congress. Added to which, the Lingayat sub-sect Panchamasalis are angry with the BJP for not giving them 2 A (Backward Class) status.

Also read: AAP eyes foothold in Karnataka; to contest all 224 assembly seats

In a recent rally, Panchamasali seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swami at Hukkeri warned that the Panchamsalis would lay siege to Vidhana Soudha if their demands were not met by  December 12. “We will not only organise a mega rally in Bengaluru to demand reservation but also lay siege to the Vidhana Soudha. All the legislators of the Panchamasali community who belong to various parties will bring pressure on the government to recategorise our community,” said the seer.

The state government, however, is not in a position to fulfil the demand of Panchamasalis, as the Karnataka State Commission For Backward Classes is yet to conduct a survey before submitting its recommendations.

Tapping Vokkaliga vote base

Meanwhile, a source in the state BJP party admitted that the Hindutva agenda is also not helping the party this time, especially after the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada. His murder led to a lot of anger among the party workers, who vented their wrath on their leaders, he said, adding that Karnataka politics in recent decade thrived on a polarised society. This is the agenda followed by the Congress and JDS as well, he said.

So, the party will ‘fill the gap’ by turning to tap the Vokkaliga vote base in the Old Mysuru region, as well as the backward classes and SC/STs, by holding community rallies in different places in the state. According to the BJP party member, the Siddaramotsava, Mekedatu Yatra, Freedom March and the recent Bharat Jodo Yatra have already turned into election campaigns for the Karnataka Congress. These yatras have left the BJP behind and now the party is trying to act swiftly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Karnataka on November 11th to unveil the 108-feet high Kempe Gowda statue at the Kempe Gowda International Airport, Devanahalli

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Karnataka on November 11 to unveil the 108-ft-high Kempe Gowda statue at the Kempe Gowda International Airport, Devanahalli. BJP has planned to turn this event into a major ‘BJP rally’ with their star campaigner, PM Modi.

‘Nada Prabhu Kempe Gowda’, who built Bengaluru, is viewed by the Vokkaligas as their community leader. Any political party, for that matter, strives to use Kempe Gowda’s name to seek Vokkaliga votes. And this time, BJP is intent on trying to corner the Vokkaliga vote base, particularly in the old Mysuru region. It is considered a JDS stronghold, the turf of the former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and his son and former CM HD Kumaraswamy.

Also read: Kingmaker JD(S) plans a comeback, keeps Cong, BJP guessing

The KPCC chief DK Shivakumar is also trying to portray himself as a strong Vokkaliga leader to get their votes in this election.

However, the BJP is also in this race and Dr CN Ashwath Narayan and R Ashok are making a bid to become the unquestioned Vokkaliga leaders in the BJP. And, it looks like the former has the upper hand.

Unveiling of the Kempe Gowda statue

The Ashwath Narayan-led team has strategically planned PM’s inauguration of the Kempe Gowda statue by getting a chariot of Kempe Gowda to travel to Vokkaliga heartland to collect “mrithika’ (mud) before the grand event. This plan has irked JDS’ HD Kumaraswamy, who criticised it, saying the chariot has PM Modi, CM Bommai and BS Yediyurappa’s names on it. However, none of them is from the Vokkaliga community. Further, terming the entire affair a “BJP event”, he pointed out that HD Deve Gowda, SM Krishna and Adi Chunchanagiri Seer’s photos were missing from the chariot.

Meanwhile, Ashwath Narayan and R Ashok are going ahead and holding a series of meetings to make the programme a success. They are working hard to assemble Vokkaligas in lakhs to attend the inauguration. In this way, the BJP hopes to showcase their Vokkaliga leaders and send out a strong message in the Old Mysuru region and sideline the JDS and the Congress.

After holding a preparatory meeting in Bengaluru, Ashwath Narayan declared that this event would turn out to be a historical moment for Bengaluru and everyone who comes to Bengaluru Airport will get to know about Kempe Gowda, the founder of the city, he said.

Also read: Karnataka govt ups quota for SCs and STs in jobs, education; crosses cap set by SC

Strategy to corner SC/STs vote bank

The BJP is also targeting to expand its voter base among Dalits as well in this election. To  achieve this, the party has planned a rally in Bellary. BJP leader Sriramulu is in charge of this event and plans to conduct a massive SC/STs rally. In a press meet, Sriramulu said that the rally’s objective is to thank the BJP leadership for increasing the SC/ST reservation.

Sources said that M Mallikarjuna Kharge’s elevation as AICC president would help Congress to strengthen its Dalit vote bank. To counter this, the BJP has planned this massive SC/ST rally.

The OBC rally

Recently, BJP conducted an OBC rally at Kalaburgi on October 30 and Chief Minister Basavaraja Bommai said in the rally that the Lotus would bloom in 2023. He targeted former chief minister and AHINDA leader Siddaramaiah, saying that he had promised a suitable status for backward classes but he cheated them and failed to induct any Kuruba legislator in his Council of Ministers.

Just as the BJP uses Kempe Gowda to attract the Vokkaliga voter base, they use freedom fighter Sangolli Rayanna to attract the Kurubas – the third major community in the state. For this reason, the BJP government has developed a military school in the name of Sangolli Rayanna. It is being built at the cost of ₹180 crore.

Interestingly, BJP is trying to bank on the Kempe Gowda statue unveiling event to snatch the Vokkaliga voter base from HD Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar. And, it is organising  SC/ST and OBC rallies to snatch these communities from the Congress, Siddaramaiah and Kharge. The question is whether the BJP’s efforts will pay off in the end.

Read More
Next Story