Home / Politics / News /  Congress woos Vokkaliga community ahead of bypolls in Karnataka

BENGALURU : The Congress party in Karnataka has begun courting the Vokkaliga community in old Mysuru region in south Karnataka that has rapidly shifted towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S) in the last few years, three people aware of the developments said.

The party has asked workers to engage Vokkaliga voters on social media and its campaigns beginning Saturday. The focus on the community comes ahead of bypolls likely in at least 17 constituencies.

“Since it’s back to being a fight between Congress and JD(S), we have to reach out or lose out," said one of the three people, all of whom requested anonymity.

The coalition of Congress and JD(S) angered Vokkaligas who were already upset about previous Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah’s focus on minorities, Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes, besides his own Kuruba community. Granting a separate religious minority status to the Lingayats worsened the mood further. In the absence of support from Vokkaligas and Lingayats, the party will be forced to depend on the highly fragmented Backward Classes.

The collapse of the coalition gives the Congress an opportunity to win back disenchanted workers and reach out to a community that has been consolidating behind JD(S).

Congress had ceded several seats in the Vokkaliga heartland to partner JD(S) in the Lok Sabha polls, pushing workers from both parties to drift to the BJP, that won a record 25 out of the 28 seats in the state.

In a recent interview, JD(S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda said workers never accepted the alliance that not just led to the defeat of the former prime minister but also H.D. Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil from Mandya, believed to be a JD(S) bastion.

“But the anger is more towards Siddaramaiah than the Congress," said another person associated with the Congress, requesting not to be named.

The Congress has brought in former legislators like N. Chaluvaraya Swamy, A.B. Ramesh Bandi Siddegowda and H.C. Balakrishna from the Vokkaliga community for the campaign, the people cited above said.

The fact that Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy have accused Siddaramaiah of engineering the collapse of the coalition by colluding with B.S. Yediyurappa of the BJP may hurt the Congress in the eyes of a community that favours the JD(S), seen as a Vokkaliga-backed party.

A section of party workers have suggested making D.K. Shivakumar the state president of the Congress to help win back Vokkaliga support—a proposal Siddaramaiah has resisted due to the ongoing fight for the leader of Opposition post within the party.

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