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Why caste and lobby won't steer K'taka election

By Vicky Nanjappa
April 11, 2013 14:40 IST
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This probably would be the first election in Karnataka where two major factors -- the lobbying and the caste factor -- are not going to be in play, reports Vicky Nanjappa.

Politics in Karnataka has always been controlled by lobbying and the caste factor, but surprisingly this time around there is not a single lobby controlling the elections. Even caste has taken a back seat and the two deciding castes -- Vokkaligas and Lingayats -- are divided in their loyalties.

The 224-member Karnataka assembly is set to go to polls on May 5, and counting of seats will be held on May 8. The election is perceived to be a multi-faceted contest between ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, the Janata Dal-Secular and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s newly-founded Karnataka Janata Party.

Lost lobbies

Karnataka has seen three major lobbies till date which have controlled the state politics inside out. First it was the liquor lobby and this was considered to be Ramakrishna Hegde’s ticket to success.

Since the days of Devraj Urs, the liquor lobby is what controlled the politics. However, in 2003, there was a sudden collapse of this lobby after the state decided to introduce the Karnataka State Beverages Corporation Limited which plugged the leaks in the excise revenue which ultimately ended the dominance of this lobby.

From 2003 onwards an education lobby started controlling the politics of the state. Those with educational institutions brought in a lot of money power thanks to capitation and a large number of seats were decided by this lobby.

After this came for a very brief period the information technology lobby. This was not a lobby which controlled the election process though. The IT lobby however had a big say in the decision-making of the government and the SM Krishna cabinet was particularly in awe of this lobby. However, after the exit of Krishna, this lobby never had a big say in the government.

The year 2007 saw the emergence of two very notorious lobbies in Karnataka -- the mining and the real estate lobbies.

What the mining lobby did needs no explanation. Bellary, which was the mining hotspot, became the control centre in Karnataka. This lobby had so much money that it was able to control 40 per cent of the candidates in any of the parties.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was most under the influence of this lobby, never once realised that mining lobby would one day unlock the door to its downfall. However, the fact that the mining lobby funded an approximate Rs 3,000 crore for the elections did most political parties in.

The mining lobby had so much control that it managed to install persons in cabinet ranks in the government. Janardhan Reddy, Karunakar Reddy and Sriramulu were overnight names which cropped up after the mining industry boom. There were the likes of Anil Lad too from the Congress who controlled a fair share of the party in the distribution of tickets.

Today mining is a bad word in Karnataka. None of the parties want to have anything to do with the mining lobby. The selection of candidates by both the Congress and the BJP is evident of this fact. The BJP is fielding new faces nowhere connected with this lobby, while the Congress is proposing to do the same. Anil Lad was reportedly upset with this and is now rebelling against his own party.

Sriramulu, who has broken away from the BJP, is the only person in the race at Bellary associated with the mining lobby and scam. He is trying to forge an alliance with the Janata Dal-Secular, but nothing is clear on paper as of now.

The fall of the mining lobby is not only witnessed in Bellary, but the case is the same in Chitradurga and Tumkur.

Real estate is the only lobby with money today. However, it would hardly make any difference because this lobby is able to control only pockets of Bangalore. At the most each party would accommodate two such candidates in Bangalore as this lobby does not make any difference in the rest of the state.  

They would also have some amount of control in Ramanagar, Kolar, Mysore and Mandya, but once again it is very negligible and does not match up to the kind of power which the other lobbies had.

Divided castes

While the control of the lobbies is out of the scene, there is a big question mark on how the caste equation would work in the state. The last time, all the Lingayats voted for the BJP while the Vokkaligas were divided between the Congress and the JD-S.

This time no party can claim the absolute support of any caste. The Lingayats will be the most divided while voting. Their loyalties would be between the BJP, KJP and the Congress. This is thanks to Yeddyurappa moving away from the BJP and forming his own party.

The Vokkaligas on the other hand will vote between the Congress and the JD-S. However, the Congress is expected to get a major share of this vote since it is believed that they would be forming the government.

One can say confidently that no party can claim that it would rely on one caste to win the elections. The issues are completely different this time while seeking a vote.

The ruling BJP will seek yet another chance and speak about the wrong doings by the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. The Congress on the other hand would seek a vote against ‘a corrupt’ BJP.

Image: The clout of the mining lobby in Karnataka is rapidly fading away

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