The two dominant castes of Karnataka — Vokkaligas and Lingayats — are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to party preferences, NDTV’s new opinion poll in partnership with Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) has found.
The survey of 2,143 randomly selected voters from across 21 randomly selected assembly constituencies found that Vokkaligas appear to be divided mainly between the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular or JD(S). Among them, 34 per cent have said they supported the Congress and 36 per cent were in favour of the JD(S). A marginal section had voted for the BJP, which won only 15 of the 58 seats where the Vokkaligas influence the outcome.
The Lingayats still appear to be with the BJP, with 67 per cent intending to vote for it.
A majority of the Muslim vote (59%) is likely to stay with the Congress.
The survey also found that among the economically weaker sections, half appear to prefer the Congress. Of the other half, only 23 per cent support the BJP.
The ruling party remains popular among the well-off sections. Of them, only 31 per cent support the Congress.
The BJP has been trying hard to break into the Vokkaliga bastions and retain its Lingayat support. To that end, in March, the BJP government scrapped the four per cent Other Backward Classes reservation for Muslims and divided it up between the two communities.
The Lingayats got a bigger chunk of the reservation – 7 per cent, a percentage point more than the Vokkaligas.
The state’s single largest community which comprises nearly 17 per cent of the population, and gave the state nine Chief Ministers, the Lingayats can determine the outcome of election in as many as 90-100 of the 224 assembly seats.
The community, initially supporters of the Congress, shifted their loyalty in the ’80s after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi abruptly sacked Lingayat Chief Minister Veerendra Patil. It provided an opening for the BJP to make inroads into the southern state under BS Yediyurappa, one of the tallest leaders of the community.
Though marginally smaller than the Lingayats, the Vokkaligas – 15 per cent of the population — have also been politically crucial, giving Karnataka four of its Chief Ministers and a Prime Minister. The community stronghold – Old Mysuru region – has 61 of the state’s 224 assembly seats, including four seats in Bengaluru Rural.
Over the last months, the BJP, which holds 17 of the seats – way behind 26 of the JDS and 18 of the Congress, has been wooing the community. Besides giving them a chunk of quota in its new policy, the BJP government has also built a massive 108-ft statue of Nada Prabhu Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru and 16th century chieftain of Vijayanagar dynasty, near the Bengaluru airport.
The party has also supported the view that two Vokkaliga leaders had killed Tipu Sultan, the 17th Century ruler of Mysuru, triggering a raging political controversy in the run-up to the election.