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Business News/ News / Karnataka Assembly election: Will BJP succeed in making inroads into Vokkaliga-dominated regions?

What’s in a caste? Well, everything. The significance of caste play cannot be overstated when it comes to Indian politics. The emphasis goes deeper just around the elections as political parties heavily focus on caste dynamics to woo them with promises and policies. One such caste which has been dominant in some previous Karnataka Assembly elections outcome is Vokkaligas.

Making up about 12-15 per cent of the population of Karnataka, the voting pattern of Vokkaligas could be proven politically crucial in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly election 2023, as it has since the Independence.

Before the reorganisation of Mysore State in 1956, Vokkaligas dominated the power politics. And the political significance of Vokkaligas could be gauged from the fact that until 1956, two of the three chief ministers belonged to the community, powering Congress’ hold in the state.

During the period of 1952-72, the Vokkaliga community held a significant political dominance, with an average representation of 27.9 per cent legislators.

In 1972, Congress Chief Minister Devaraj Urs introduced the term 'AHINDA' for mobilisation of the lower castes in terms of a social alliance of 'Alpasankhyataru' (minorities), 'Hindulidavaru' (backward classes), and 'Dalitaru' (Dalits) and break into the dominance of Vokkaligas and Lingayats. Congress continues to enjoy their support to date.


The Vokkaliga community is primarily concentrated in the Old Mysore region of Karnataka and has traditionally been a supporter of the Janata Dal (Secular), which is led by the former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, who is himself a Vokkaliga.

Also Read | Karnataka polls: Pre-poll survey shows clear win for Congress; BJP calls it ‘bogus’

In 2018, JD(S) formed an alliance with the Congress in Karnataka, helping them form the government in the state. In the Vokkaligas-dominated region, the JD(S) won 24 seats in the 2018 Karnataka Assembly election, while the Congress and the BJP bagged 11 and 6 constituencies, respectively.

The JD(S) enjoys a significant level of backing from the Vokkaligas, as demonstrated by their impressive performance in the Mandya and Hassan regions, where they secured victories in 13 out of 14 Assembly constituencies in the 2018 election.

However, in the past few years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been trying to make inroads into the Vokkaliga vote bank by even electing DV Sadananda Gowda, a senior Vokkaliga, as the chief minister.

The BJP candidate list in the Karnataka Assembly election 2023 features 42 seats allotted to Vokkaligas, while in 2018, the saffron party had fielded 34 candidates from the community. The Congress, too, has 53 candidates from the Vokkaliga community in the Karnataka polls, up from 41 in the 2018 Karnataka elections.

They have nominated Vokkaligas on Rajya Sabha seats and last year, PM Modi had inaugurated a 108-foot tall statue of Nadaprabhu Kempegowda, a Vokkaliga leader which also led to a controversy as HD Deve Gowda wasn’t invited to the event. Union Home Minister Amit Shah also unveiled three statues of Vokkaliga leaders in a day.

Keeping in mind how Vokkaligas may impact the political outcome in the Karnataka Assembly election 2023, the BJP announced an increase in reservation for the community to 2 per cent while simultaneously removing the 4 per cent reservation previously granted to Muslims. The latter group will now be placed under the 10% Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category.

Also Read | Congress adds fifth ‘guarantee’ for women days ahead of Karnataka Assembly polls

So, will there be a shift in the Vokkaligas’ stance? History has indicated so. While the Vokkaliga heartland has traditionally supported the JD(S), the BJP has managed to enjoy the support of some sections of Vokkaligas in Malnad, Kodagu, Bengaluru and Mysore in the past few years. But, none of the BJP leaders have been able to secure the same level of backing. This is in contrast to the support enjoyed by JD(S) leaders such as HD Kumaraswamy and HD Deve Gowda, as well as senior Congress figure DK Shivakumar.

The last-ditch effort from the BJP came in the form of Yogi Adityanath, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Yogi Adityanath is a follower of the Nath Sampradaya and Adichunchanagiri mutt, which is largely followed by the Vokkaligas and is loyal to the same order. While BJP has been trying to rake in Naath Sampradaya into its fold since 2018 for Vokkaliga support, these efforts have not yielded significant results so far.

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Updated: 30 Apr 2023, 12:29 PM IST
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