Increasing Lingayat reservations backfires for BJP; Congress wins 60 seats in N Karnataka region

The voters of North Karnataka region play an important role in bringing a political party to power. This time region seems to have propped up the Congress giving them 60 seats, while BJP got 25 plus seats only

Karnataka Assembly elections, North Karnataka region, BJP
A political party that gets 60 plus seats in the North Karnataka region normally forms the government in the state. File photo

As the results of the Karnataka Assembly elections pour in, it has become clear that Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) political strategy of increasing reservations for Lingayats and SC/STs seems to have backfired on them. Congress has in fact gained in the end by bagging more than 60 seats in the crucial North Karnataka region.

The voters of the North Karnataka region play an important role in bringing a political party to power and this time the region seems to have propped up the Congress. North Karnataka comprising Kittur Karnataka (Mumbai Karnataka) and Kalyana Karnataka (Hyderabad Karnataka) regions have 13 districts with a total of 90 assembly seats.

In 2018, BJP had 52 seats, Congress 32 and JD(S) had 6. Interestingly, this time, BJP won 25 plus seats, whereas JD(S) lost all the seats they had contested, and Congress walked off with 60 seats. In 2013, Congress achieved 59 seats and formed a government and in 2018, BJP achieved 52 seats to gain power. In effect, whichever party gets 60 plus seats in this region, normally forms the government in the state.

The region includes Belagavi, Bagalkot, Vijayapur, Kalaburagi, Yadgiri, Gadag, Hubli-Dharwad, Haveri, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal, Vijayanagar and Bellary districts. In most places, there was a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP. For achieving big numbers in North Karnataka, the factors that went against BJP were the thorny issue of reservation and the powerful community of Lingayats turning against them.

Also read: Karnataka polls: People won, hate and crony capitalism lost, says Rahul

The increase in reservations for the Panchamasalis failed to work for the BJP, as the Panchamasalis remained skeptical of the move since it was given to them by abolishing the Muslim reservations. And, the matter is now in the courts. Also, the exit of influential Lingayat leaders Jagadish Shettar and Lakshmana Savadi visibly broke the BJP’s vote bank. In the last election, 70 per cent of Lingayat votes went to BJP. This time, the Lingayats seem to have voted for the Congress, said political analysts.

The SC/ST reservation

The major communities including ST (Valmiki Nayaka) and Scheduled Caste communities also went against BJP in this election. BJP only won 12 SC seats out of 36 SC reserve seats (Congress 20 seats). BJP achieved zero in 15 ST seats, while Congress bagged 14 and JD(S) got one.

So, in the end, hiking up the ST reservation from 5 to 7 per cent by the Bommai government looked like a gimmick to people who then voted against the BJP.

Another important factor is that 8 districts (64 constituencies) have yielded zero numbers to BJP and it won just two seats each in seven districts (14 seats from 56 constituencies). The BJP lost in Chikmagalur and Kodagu, originally their bastion. The BJP national general secretary CT Ravi, and former speaker KG Bopaiah lost their seats and all of this proved costly for BJP.

Also read: Karnataka polls: List of BJP ministers who lost

The newcomers

The leaders who joined Congress from other parties have, except a few like Jagadish Shettar, won including  Lalshamana Savadi, Shivalinge Gowda, Madhu Bangarappa, NY Gopalakrishna, HD Thammiah.

12 ministers from Basavaraj Bommmai’s cabinet of 24 Ministers lost this elections including Dr K Sudhakar, R Sriramulu, Murugesh Nirani, Govind Karajola, V Somanna, R Ashok (lost Kanakapura, won Padmanabhanagar), BC Patil, Dr KN Narayana Gowda, MTB Nagaraj, JC Madhuswamy,  BC Nagesh, Halappa Achar, Shankar Patill Munekoppa.