Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah during the Janashirvad yatra in Belgaum district in Karnataka.(PTI File Photo)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah during the Janashirvad yatra in Belgaum district in Karnataka.(PTI File Photo)

OBCs, Lingayats dominate Congress candidate list for Karnataka elections

The Congress has fielded 36 Dalits, 17 from the scheduled tribes, 15 Muslims, seven Brahmins, two Christians and two Jains for the Karnataka elections.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2018 11:52 PM IST

The Congress sought to do a fine caste balance on its first list of 218 candidates for the May 12 assembly elections in Karnataka, fielding 52 nominees from the other backward class (OBC) as well as 42 Lingayats and 39 Vokaligas — the state’s two influential communities.

The OBCs constitute nearly 23% of the state’s population of 65 million while Lingayats, Vokaligas and Kurubas account for around 14%, 11% and 9% respectively.

Chief minister Siddaramaiah is from the marginalised Kuruba community, the third largest caste in Karnataka after Lingayats and Vokaligas, the two upper castes that have influenced the state’s politics for decades.

The ruling party fielded 36 Dalits, who make up 19.5% of the population, 17 from the scheduled tribes accounting for 5% of the demography, 15 Muslims, seven Brahmins, two Christians and two Jains. People of the Islamic faith constitute 16% of the population while Brahmins and Christians are 3% each and Jains represent 1% of the total, according to latest census data.

The Congress seems to have gone for experience over youth, with 138 candidates aged between 51 and 70. Of the remaining 80 candidates, 24 are in the age group of 25-40 and 49 are between 41 and 50 years. As many as seven contestants are above 70 years.

The party is fielding 13 women. And of the six seats pending, the Congress announced its support to one independent candidate.

Candidate selection has been a critical element in Karnataka with the Congress facing huge embarrassment in the past two assembly elections over allegations that the party took money from people seeking its poll ticket — to contest under its banner. The party denied the charges.

Supporters of leaders denied re-nomination hit the streets against Siddaramaiah and the party leadership minutes after the Congress announced its first list on Sunday. As many as 14 legislators have been dropped this time.

The Congress leadership came under fire for giving tickets to sons and daughters of senior leaders, bypassing the earlier one family-one ticket norm followed in some states, including Punjab.

While Siddaramaiah’s son Yatheendra will contest from Varuna, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge’s son Priyank has been re-nominated for Chittapur and Lok Sabha parliamentarian KH Muniyappa’s daughter Roopa Sasidhar is the party candidate for Kolar Gold Fields constituency.

State home minister R Ramalinga Reddy’s daughter Sowmya will contest from Jayanagar, law and parliamentary affairs minister TB Jayachandra’s son Santosh has been fielded from Chikanayakanahalli. Housing minister M Krishnappa’s son Priya Krishna will contest from Vijayanagar.

Seven former Janata Dal (Secular) legislators — Zamir Ahmed Khan, Chelluvar Ayyasamy, Iqbal Ansari, Akhanda Srinivas Moorthi, HC Balakrishna, Bheema Nayak and Ramesh Bendi Siddhagowda — have been given Congress tickets. This left a question mark over Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s repeated resolve to prefer loyalists over “paratroopers” during candidate selection.

But KC Venugopal, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Karnataka, says a candidate’s prospect of victory was the overriding factor in the selection process.

Political analysts disagreed. “No great strategy seems to be behind the list. The only highlight is that Siddaramaiah now joins the list of leaders bent upon promoting their children in power politics. This seems to have forced the party to accede to similar demands from other leaders at the cost of alienating aspirants waiting for a chance,” says A Narayana, associate professor for public policy at the Bengaluru-based Azim Premji University.

“In its usual act of balancing castes, sub-castes, communities, and children of senior leaders, some sitting MLAs have been denied re-nomination resulting in usual post-list discontent and party-hopping,” he says.

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