The 5 December bypolls in 15 Karnataka assembly constituencies are likely to see a disruption in traditional caste equations, politicians and analysts said.
Widely-held beliefs that the dominant Lingayat community will side with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Vokkaligas with Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), or extremely backward classes and minorities with the Congress may not apply in bypolls necessitated due to defections.
The intent of these defections is believed to be of individual gain—either monetary or landing ministerial berths—by helping to pull down the Congress-JD(S) coalition government and bring back Yediyurappa as chief minister.
“All these caste calculations go out the window when you talk of by-elections," Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro vice chancellor at Jain University said. He said the specificity linked to the bypolls in which sitting legislators have changed party affiliations is a factor that will play a bigger role.
Fielded on BJP tickets, the defectors willing to splurge their way to victory are facing an uphill task since rivals have pockets just as deep. The recent defeat of defectors to the BJP in the Maharashtra assembly and other bypolls across the country last month have boosted the Opposition’s morale and its belief that voters will reject them in Karnataka as well.
In some regions and cases, analysts say that individual personalities and popularity of the leader would matter more.
In Vijayanagara, former mining baron Anand Singh who is back with the BJP after switching sides to the Congress just before assembly polls last year, has enjoyed the support of the Muslims as they did earlier since his mother is from the same community.
In areas like Krishnarajapete deep in the Vokkaliga heartland of the sugarcane growing district of Mandya, the BJP is hoping to make inroads into the community by fielding Narayana Gowda, who defected from the JD(S).
Vokkaliga-dominated Mandya rallied behind Sumalatha Amarnath (Ambareesh) to defeat Kumaraswamy’son and JD(S) candidate Nikhil in the Lok Sabha elections.
“First is the money, then caste, party and finally ideology if any," Ramjan Darga, a Kalaburagi-based political analyst said.
In Hosakote, the Kuruba community had consolidated behind the Siddaramiah-led Congress and helped the victory of N.Nagaraju in spite of the dominance of the Vokkaligas. Nagaraju is contesting on a BJP ticket now and is unsure if the community will follow him or stay with the Siddaramaiah backed Congress candidate.