Bengaluru: The Congress in Karnataka has earmarked 103 constituencies to three politically influential caste groups—Lingayats, Vokkaligas and Kurubas—in its list of 218 candidates who will contest next month’s assembly elections.

Of them, 44 are Lingayats, 41 are Vokkaligas and 18 are Kurubas. In addition, there are 36 Scheduled Caste candidates, 15 Muslims and two Christians apart from other caste groups.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has so far listed 154 candidates, has earmarked about 55 for Lingayats and 20 for Vokkaligas, according to N.Ravi Kumar, the party’s general secretary. But it has so far not named a single Muslim or Christian candidate.

Both parties have continued the tradition of pandering to dominant caste politics but with an increasing significance given to Kurubas, the shepherd community from which incumbent chief minister Siddaramaiah hails.

Though Siddaramaiah’s political narrative has always been to challenge the dominant caste narrative by reviving AHINDA (acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits), he and his party have continued to give importance to Lingayats to capitalize on its recent decision to accord minority religion status to the community, believed to be the largest caste group in the state.

In turn, many influential Lingayat mathas (monasteries) have promised to back Siddaramaiah and the Congress.

However, most political parties have listed winnability as the main criteria in ticket distribution in the assembly election, which is turning out to be one of the most fiercely contested in recent times.

A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University said caste is part of “winnability" considerations. “When they say winnability, it is an index of many things, the main components of which are money and caste," he said.

However, the growing significance of Kurubas can be attributed to factors like the fact that this community has spread across the state, unlike the Vokkaligas (believed to be the second largest caste group) who are dominant in south Karnataka. He added that former prime minister H. D. Deve Gowda and Janata Dal (Secular) leader knew the potential of this community and nurtured Siddaramaiah, when he was in the same party.

Siddaramaiah, who severed ties with Gowda in 2006, commissioned a caste census in 2015 to challenge the dominant caste influence in the state and give more reservations to backward class and Dalits, his core support group.

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