Karnataka elections: How PM Modi, Yeddyurappa, Lingayats and JD(S) shaped results for BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) emergence as the single largest party in the May 12 Karnataka assembly election potentially sets it up for expansion elsewhere in the country’s south, using the state as a springboard. Several factors contributed to the party’s performance. Here is a list of the top five.
Narendra Modi: The Prime Minister remains the biggest vote-catcher for the BJP. He toured the state extensively before the poll dates were set, and went on a second round of electioneering starting on May 1. The response was immense and the BJP increased the number of public rallies he addressed from 15 to 21, covering most parts of the state. Attendance at the rallies was impressive and his spirited attacks on the Congress helped the BJP build a narrative against the incumbent. Modi also held live video conferences with different sets of party workers; such as women, Dalits and the young.
Lingayat consolidation: The politically influential Lingayat community, which makes up around 15% of the Karnataka population, has been a loyal supporter of the BJP. The Siddaramaiah government’s perceived bid to drive a wedge between the Lingayats and other communities by offering them the status of a separate religion did not work. The BJP is likely to win most of the Lingayat-dominated seats; there are about 50 of them. The Lingayat consolidation helped BJP regain its hold on north Karnataka, which the Congress dominated the last time around.
BS Yeddyurappa: The Lingayat strongman is the BJP’s most charismatic leader in Karnataka and his projection as the chief ministerial candidate helped the party in two ways. First, it put a lid on factionalism in the state in which at least half-a-dozen BJP leaders nursed chief ministerial ambitions.Once factionalism was checked, the BJP moved swiftly to capitalise on Yeddyurappa’s pro-farmers’ image in a state where suicides by debt-ridden agriculturalists was a talking point in the elections. As agriculture minister and subsequently as the chief minister, Yeddyurappa is credited with initiating several welfare schemes for farmers.
Early start: The BJP started preparing for the election quite early. Party general secretary, Muralidhar Rao was sent to Karnataka well in advance for seat-by-seat mapping and to scout for potential candidates. An election war room crowd sourced the party’s manifesto. Yeddyurappa was sent on a whirlwind ‘Parivartana Yatre’ (transformation journey) of the state between November and January. All top leaders of the party joined the initiative. BJP chief Amit Shah’s election management skills were at work too. The state was divided into sub-regions, with each being overseen by a senior leader. Shah personally monitored the minutest of details, even as he reached out to every religious mutt.
Janata Dal (Secular): A good show by the JD(S) led by former prime minister, HD Deve Gowda, and his son and former chief minister, HD Kumaraswamy, in the Old Mysore region — dominated by the Vokkaliga community — came as a setback for the Congress. The JD(S) was in a direct contest in this pocket with the Congress. While the BJP managed to make inroads into the districts of Old Mysore, the JD(S) performance ensured that the Congress could not compensate in the region for the reverses it suffered elsewhere in the state.