New Delhi: In the run up to Karnataka assembly polls, political parties are going full throttle in their effort to woo voters. The election manifestoes of ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress are filled with luring promises which appear hardly realistic. However, both the parties are claiming that these promises after coming to power will be fulfilled.

How far will these freebies help them to garner votes is hard to decipher as caste politics in Karnataka plays a key role in deciding the fate of the political parties. There are two dominant social groups in Karnataka -Lingayats and Vokkaligas who till late 1990s were anti-Congress and jointly voted against the party.

After 2000, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda’s JDS made inroads in both the communities but they largely supported the BJP. It was all out support of Lingayats and Vokkaligas to the BJP, which took the party’s tally to near-majority in 2008 polls. It is noteworthy that former chief minister BS Yeddurappa hails from Lingayat community.

However, the political developments in recent years after BS Yeddyurappa’s ouster from the Chief Minister’s post in 2011 are bound to change political equations this time.

Sadanand Gowda, who hails from Vokkaliga community, became the Chief Minister of Karnataka in August 2011, though, with the blessings of Yeddyurappa. Lingayat strongman soon became disgruntled with the new Chief Minister, Gowda, and started to press for another change. From here Lingayats-Vokkaligas chasm became apparent. Conceding to Yeddyurappa’s demands for removal of Gowda from Chief Minister’s post, BJP leadership appointed Jagadish Shettar in his place. This time too, the new Chief Minister was a choice of Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa.

The JDS which has a strong support base among the Vokkaligas is definitely going to gain from the Lingayats-Vokkaligas divide.

North Karnataka a crucial region

The Vokkaligas constitute between 15 and 17 percent of the state population and are concentrated in districts of South Karnataka whereas Lingayats are predominant in the north. North Karnataka districts are comparatively larger and have often played a crucial role in shaping state politics. In past, north Karnataka has given 10 Chief Ministers.

Aditya Shukla/JPN

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