Siddaramaiah-led Congress was banking high on the support from Lingayat and Dalit communities in the elections. The party, which made tall claims of retaining power, was in for a shock when results came out on Tuesday. What went wrong? The two major flock of voters – the Lingayats, which is around 17 per cent in the state and Dalits, which number around 23 per cent of the total population – seem to have voted against Congress’ expectations.
Before the elections, Siddaramaiah made a big move by awarding minority religion status to Lingayats community, a step seen as a counter to BS Yeddyurappa’s massive outreach to the community. However, the results made it clear that Congress has suffered massive losses in the Mumbai-Karnataka, Hyderabad-Karnataka and Central Karnataka regions, where the community is dominant. The party could only manage to win 39 seats in these regions, a massive decline from 67 it bagged last time.
The Congress was relying on support lent by a number of influential mutts of the community. As the result was announced, it seemed that mutts restricted their support to government’s decision, but didn’t make efforts to turn the same into electoral support.
The party suffered a drubbing as a number of high profile netas, particulary aligned with the Lingayat move, also lost the elections. These included party heavyweights like Vinay Kulkarni and Sharan Prakash Patil, who had been part of the Lingayat campaign. Leaders like SR Patil and BR Patil also lost elections. Sitting minister SS Mallikarjun, son of Lingayat leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, also faced a shocking defeat.
However, one counter argument coming up here is that Congress has benefitted from the efforts it made. Otherwise, the party could have completely wiped out in these regions.
Another chunk of voters which seem to have broken away from Congress were Dalits and backward classes. In fact, the Congress in 2013 came to helm with a strong backing of minorities, backward classes and Dalits. Dalits and Scheduled Tribes in Karnataka sum up to between 20 to 23 per cent, enough to make or break prospects for any political party to come to power.
In 2013, the support of Dalits helped Congress so critically last time that it managed to emerge as the largest party in coastal Karnataka – a region considered as the bastion of RSS.
In total, Congress had won 26 seats out of total 51 constituencies reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, while the BJP had only won seven. Sriramulu’s BSR Congress (now merged with the BJP) bagged four seats while two went to independents.
However, this time the communities seem to have cross-voted. The BJP and the Congress appeared neck and neck winning 23 and 19 seats respectively. The JD-S grabbed eight.
As we see, the end result is a hung assembly, with BJP emerging as the single largest party.