EXIT POLL: The last exit poll showed the BJP marginally ahead of the Congress. However, the Janata Dal might collaborate with the Congress to keep BJP out of power.

By Rajan Narayan

The election in Karnataka is a battle between the pre-dominant Lingayats who were the equivalent of Goa’s Brahmins and the Vokkaligas who are the backward classes. Unfortunately for Congress and BJP the Lingayat vote is divided. Both parties are pouring goodies on their voters in the manifesto…

IN almost every state in the country with perhaps the exception of Goa, caste plays a most significant role in elections. In neighboring Karnataka going to the polls on May 10, 2023 the fight is not between the Bharatiya Janata party and the Congress but the Lingayat and Vokkaliga. The Lingayat who make up 23% of the population have been calling the shots in every election since the state of Karnataka was formed.
The Lingayat have modeled themselves on the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins of Goa. They considered themselves worshipers of Lord Shiva. Like the Brahmins have several mutts and ashrams all over the country, the Lingayat too have mutts in every district in Karnataka. The Lingayat considered themselves superior to all the communities in the state of Karnataka. Unfortunately, the Lingayat have been divided by the political parties.
As in Maharashtra where the Maratha people have asked for concessions and reservations, the Lingayat too have asked for reservations in Karnataka. Ironically, Karnataka is the only state which has 4% reservation for its large Muslim population. An attempt to cancel reservations was turned down by the Supreme Court.
Siddaramaiah, a former popular BJP leader of Karnataka, united all the other castes against the Lingayats. Siddaramaiah had the full support the Vokkaliga considered a backward group in the state. However, they have a population of 16%. In terms of numbers if you combine them with the Muslim population they exceed the Lingayat population. If the Lingayat were united in their support of any particular party they would succeed.
The electoral war in Karnataka is further complicated by defections from the BJP to the Congress and the Congress to the BJP. The chief minister candidate of the Congress is Basavaraj Bommai, who does not have the support of the Congress high command. It is close fight and the defeat of the BJP in the last major elections before the 2024 parliamentary polls that will boost opposition units.
There is a Goa link to Karnataka. One of the former senior ministers in the Karnataka government was Deshpande, who used to run the Sandur mines of a small jagir. Vijayadevi Rane is reportedly a princess of the Sandur which was ruled by a royal family of the Marathas. Since Pratapsingh Raoji Rane also considered himself a part of the royal Sattari kingdom he chose to marry Vijayadevi Rane. Vishwajit is a favourite of Vijayadevi. It is mother and son who took the decision for father and son to join the BJP.

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