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Karnataka

Karnataka saw dramatic political jostling after polls threw up a hung house. While the BJP emerged as a single largest party with 104 MLAs, Congress got 78 and JDS 37. The latter two announced post-poll alliance even as results were coming in.

HD Kumaraswamy, the third son of JD(S) supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, took oath as the next Chief Minister of Karnataka at a grand ceremony outside Vidhan Soudha on 23 May 2018. The event was attended by several opposition leaders and other chief ministers of non-BJP ruled states, a development which is being billed as a bid to form a broad-based anti-BJP platform before the Lok Sabha polls next year. As per the power sharing arrangement worked out by the two coalition partners, the Congress will have 22 ministers and JD(S) will have 12 berths.

The BJP, on the other hand has dubbed the Congress-JD(S) alliance as unholy and claimed that the government will not complete its full term. Congress and JDS worked out the portfolio allocation in Karnataka government after days of hectic negotiations between the leadership of both the parties. As per the equation worked out, Finance will go to the JD(U) and the Home department to the Congress. Congress president Rahul Gandhi was on board over the portfolio sharing agreement and had spoken to leaders over the phone from the United States, where he travelling with his mother Sonia Gandhi who had gone for a medical check-up. The sharing of key portfolios in the Karnataka government has been a bone of contention between the two alliance partners since Kumaraswamy took over as chief minister, delaying government formation in the state.

After a high-voltage campaign that stretched over a month, Karnataka went to the polls on 12 May 2018 to elect 222 legislators. A total of 70.91% of the electorate exercised their franchise. The 2013 election saw a turnout of 71.45%. Exit polls that came out after polling closed at 6 p.m. predicted a cliffhanger, with the ruling Congress and the BJP running neck-and-neck and the JD(S) in the third place, with the potential to be the king-maker. The run-up to the election saw leaders from across the country including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi campaigning extensively.

While the BJP was predicted as the single largest party in the Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat and ABP-C Voter polls, the Times Now-VMR and India Today-Axis My India polls put the Congress ahead. The exit poll run by Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat predicted that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party getting 95 to 114 seats while the ABP-C Voter gave the party 97 to 109 seats.

Axis and Chanakya are the two agencies that have the best track record, and they predicted a split verdict. Axis predicts Congress will get between 106-118 seats while Chanakya predicted a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win with 120 seats. The poll of polls shows the BJP ahead at 103, followed by Congress at 85 and the Janata Dal (Secular) at 32 seats.

There was no strong anti-incumbency sentiment in 2018, independent of whether the Congress retained the state or not. Karnataka has a strong history of anti-incumbency. No incumbent government has retained power in the state since 1985. The Congress returned to power after a decade in 2013, with Siddaramaiah breaking a 40-year-old record to complete the five-year term as Chief Minister. The Congress won 122 of the state's 224 seats in 2013, the BJP and Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) - JD(S) - won 40 each.

Voting in Karnataka Assembly elections held on May 12, 2018 reveal voter turnout to be 72.13%. This is higher than the 71.45 % turnout in the 2013 elections, and the 65 % turnout registered in 2008 and 2004. While a higher voter turnout is good, for democracy, it has several possible implications for political parties. Both the Congress and BJP felt the higher turnout would benefit them. Congress saw the higher polling percentage as clear sign of winds of change that would bring the party back to power. While the BJP felt a higher turnout means more of its supporters turned up to vote.

Traditionally, coastal Karnataka is seen as a BJP bastion. The Old Mysuru region of Karnataka is a JD(S) strong hold. Vokkaligas the dominant community here traditionally vote for the JD(S).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won five of the eight Karnataka legislative assembly seats contested in by-elections on 27 December 2008. The victory gives the BJP an absolute majority of 115 seats in Karnataka's 224-seat legislative assembly, the first time the BJP has accomplished this feat in South India. The regional Janata Dal-Secular (JDS) party won at least two seats. The Congress Party failed to win any of the eight contested seats. The BJP's victory provides helpful momentum for the party in the run-up to national elections.

The Karnataka assembly election 2018, which in its early days appeared to be leaning towards Congress after its division of Lingayats, and copying of Hindi language agitations from Tamil Nadu, has lost out to BJP. Karnataka is generally one of the most important elections [after UP elections] for both the national parties.

Caste rules politics in Karnataka. All the parties have their own caste equations and backing of powerful castes. Vokkaliga in Kannada means one who tills the land, and this peasant caste has learned the art of reaping political dividends as well. Between 1947 and 2004, Karnataka had 23 Chief Ministerss. Six were Lingayats, five Vokkaligas, three from backward classes, and two Brahmins. The landslide victory of the Janata Dal in the 1994 assembly elections was a combination of Vokkaliga, Kurubas and Muslim votes. Now they are being wooed both by Congress and BJP, both parties mindful of the fact that the community may hold the key to power in Karnataka.

In Karnataka, there are so many categories based on both ideological differences as well as based on the geographical divisions. Smarta Brahmins, Maadhva Brahmins, Srivaishnava (Iyengar), Saraswat, Kokanastha, Deshastha, Daivagnya, and many other categories exist which often overlap with each other. In Bombay Karnataka, despite tensions between Lingayats and Brahmins, nationalists from these two groups made common cause before Independence.

Karnataka has experienced in the past 75 years several socio-political alignments of its people. One of the negative trends, as witnessed in Karnataka, was the increasing use of caste category even to put forward secular demands. This negative trend became more pronounced after India had attained her independence in 1947. In the first phase, which started in the 1920s in the former princely state, non-Brahmins made common cause against Brahmin domination. A second phase emerged in the 1950s with divisions between non-Brahmin Vokkaligas and Lingayats. By the early 1970s, non-Brahmin minority castes protested the domination of Vokkaligas and Lingayats.

Although Karnataka has witnessed a triangular contest at the macro level, the contest at the ground level is more or less between the Congress on one side and the BJP or the JD(S) on the other. This is due to the social and geographical distribution of the political influence of the BJP and JD(S). The BJP is popular in north and central Karnataka while the JD(S) is strong in the Old Mysuru region and southern Karnataka. While BJP enjoys the support of Lingayats despite Siddaramaiah wielding the separate religious identity card, the JD(S) is rallying the Vokkaliga community voters.

Lingayatism is a distinct Shaivite denomination practiced in India. It makes several departures from mainstream Hinduism and propounds monotheism through worship centered on Lord Shiva in the form of linga universal God or Ishtalinga. It also rejects the authority of the Vedas, the caste system and some Hindu beliefs such as reincarnation and karma.

The Congress government in poll-bound Karnataka decided 20 March 2018 to recommend that religious minority tag be granted to the numerically strong and politically-influential Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community. The issue of granting religious minority tag to the Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community will be examined as and when the Home Ministry receives the proposal from the Karnataka government, a senior home ministry official said. The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/ Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the community, amidst resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.

A survey conducted March 2018 by the association of democratic reforms (ADR) and Daksh on voters, perception has revealed that despite a general thumbs up for chief minister Siddaramaiahs populist scheme, the 2018 elections may very well be dependent on the caste and religion of the candidate. In the report, ADR has found that as much as 37 per cent of the sample size consider religion as an important factor while 36 per cent believed that the caste of the candidate would reel-in their votes.

Caste certainly is a major factor that drew political stalwarts to Bengaluru, notwithstanding the citys claim to hi-tech modernity. The Vokkaliga community is estimated to account for over 20% of the close to 89-lakh strong electorate in Bengaluru Urban district. The community votes are decisive in at least 15 of 28 assembly constituencies in the city. Though the Brahmin community comprises only 7% of the citys voters, it plays a decisive role in constituencies like Basavanagudi, Malleswaram, and Chamarajpet. Krishna is a Vokkaliga, while Hegde and Gundu Rao were from the Brahmin community. Minorities and Dalits, who together account for over 30% of the electorate, is another sizeable section that leaders eye.

Politics in the country is often about family bonding and the Congress candidates' list for Karnataka has reiterated that. The party followed the "one family, one ticket" policy in last year's Assembly elections in Punjab and in Uttarakhand. However, it's not willing to take that route in the crucial Karnataka election (scheduled for 12 May) despite state chief G Parameshwara's suggestion to stick to the rule. The Congress list, announced on 14 April 2018 had no fewer than 5 parent-child pairs among the 218 candidates who would seek election on May 12.

Many Congress leaders, including chief minister Siddaramaiah, demanded tickets for their family members. His elder son Rakesh, who was planning his political debut this election, had died of a heart attack in Belgium in June 2016. After the incident, Siddaramaiah's second son Yathindra, a pathologist, reluctantly decided to carry his fathers legacy forward.

The Janata Dal Secular is not averse to giving tickets to relatives of senior leaders. While the party is yet to announce its list, its chief and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda told NDTV that two members of his family would be given tickets. The BJP has so far fielded 154 candidates and said no one from the candidates' families are included yet.

Disgruntled with the party high command's first list of candidates in the upcoming Assembly Elections in Karnataka, Congress party workers took to streets to express their anger. Media visuals showed party workers chanting anti-Siddaramaiah slogans, burning tyres, effigies etc on the streets. Videos showed party workers breaking office furniture, tearing papers and shouting slogans inside party office. Similar protests were held in Chikmagulur were party workers broke chairs. Voices of dissent were also heard from heard from Hangal, Mayakonda, Jagalur, Tiptur, Kunigal, Kolar, Kollegal, Belur, Badami, Kittur and many other constituencies.

Coastal Karnataka is the stronghold of BJP. All the three MP seats are being held by BJP. Coastal districts have completely polarized under hindutva. Coastal Karnataka has three districts of Dakshina Kannada (8), Uttara Kannada (6) and Udupi (5). Together they have 19 seats. Bombay Karnataka is the stronghold of BJP, because of the factor of Lingayats, who are the backbone of the party. An agitation is ongoing for Lingayats to be given a separate religious status. This is being encouraged by Congress Chief Minister Siddaramiah, to gain their votes.

The 56 seats in this region may be divided in the proportion of 40 to BJP and 16 to Congress. Hyderabad Karnataka is a stronghold of BJP, because of Reddy brothers and Yeddiyurappa. Lingayats are the dominant caste in this region. There are 40 seats in this region. Congress may take 12 seats and BJP 28 seats. The rest may go the way of others and independents.

The Old Mysore area, excluding Bangalore city, has 81 seats. In this region all the three major parties have influence. Congress may get 34 seats, JDS, 18 seats, and BJP may get 24 seats. The rest may go to independents and others. Bangalore is always the stronghold of BJP. The major community Brahmins in the city normally favor BJP, which may expect 18 seats, Congress 10 seats, and 0 seats to JDS.

According to an April 2018 India Today-Karvy opinion polls survey, the Congress is expected to win 90-101 seats, well short of majority target of 112. The BJP may win 78-86 seats, nearly double to its last tally in 2013, while JD(S) is expected to win 34-43 seats and may play a role of kingmaker in the state.

Most of the poll surveys predict a hung assembly. Congress is expected to get anywhere between 77 to 102. BJP may cross 100 and either fail to get majority or just cross half way mark.



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