Karnataka election: Congress’s Lingayat religious minority card fails, community’s vote returns to BJP

NEW DELHI: If the Congress was banking on the crucial Lingayat vote in the 2018 assembly election following its decision to grant religious minority status to the community, the move has not worked to its advantage.

The community’s vote was expected make or mar the prospects of the parties battling it out in the state. The BJP had expressed its opposition to the decision, saying it would split society further and introduce more cleavages in the socio-economic fabric, and on the ground too, some felt the move was just a gimmick by the Congress to win votes.

But the Congress expected otherwise. The Lingayats have an influence on nearly 100 seats in the 224-member assembly and make up 17% of the state’s population and the party hoped that by playing the religious minority card, it would split the BJP’s vote base and also woo voters away from BS Yeddyurappa, the Lingayat leader who has been in and out of the BJP since 2012.

But latest trends show the Congress strategy hasn’t gone according to plan. The saffron party is set to emerge the single-largest party in the state and is ahead of the Congress in the the majority of Lingayat dominated seats – mainly in north Karnataka (Hyderabad Karnataka) and parts of the central region. Lingayat dominant areas are where the community comprises 15% of the population.


2018: A snapshot of Lingayat dominated areas. These figures indicate trends as of 11.00am

But although the community has traditionally supported the BJP, the 2013 assembly election witnessed a different story when the Congress emerged a clear winner in Lingayat dominant areas with 67% seat share. The party won 47 seats, against just 5 seats for the BJP in Lingayat dominant areas.


2013: A snapshot of Lingayat dominated areas. These figures are the final seat tally

Compared with 2008, the Congress doubled its seat share in these areas in 2013 and this departure from the norm was in large part due to Yeddyurappa cutting ties with the BJP and forming his own party — the KJP. His break with the BJP ended up splitting the Lingayat vote, with both parties nullifying each other’s chances of winning. The Congress, in turn. emerged the biggest beneficiary of this split walking away with two third of the seats in the Lingayat dominant region while the BJP was reduced to single digits in 2013.


2008: BJP won a majority of Lingayat dominated seats

Fast forward back to 2018, when Yeddyurappa’s return to the BJP fold has translated into significant gains for the saffron party, with the Lingayat vote swinging back to to the BJP.

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