The pyramid of Indian elections is such that at the bottom of the pyramid lie the Gram Panchayat, Taluq Pnchayat and Zilla Parishad elections. A tier above the base are the Urban Local Body polls. On top of the ULB polls are the Assembly elections and the topmost layer is represented by the LS polls.
In a classical political approach, a party is supposed to grow from the bottom of the pyramid to reach to the pinnacle. The Congress is usually credited with this ‘grass-roots’ approach to political success. But the reality of Indian politics is not always so simplistically linear. JDS, for instance, always shows a far greater performance at the grass-roots level, but underperforms as the party moves upwards (with the worst performance at the top, in LS polls). There are many political parties in India with ‘solid’ grass-roots performance but nothing much to show at Assembly or Parliamentary level – the various hues of Raitha Sanghas (peasants parties) are a good example from the past in the State.
BJP in Karnataka has usually been a party of the top-down approach; the party’s best performance has always come from LS polls, followed by Assembly elections. It is this small fact that gives the party a glimmer of hope, especially for the Parliamentary elections that may soon follow the Karnataka Assembly elections.
Old-Mysore region: Will decide if Congress gets a workable majority or not
In these 37 Assembly segments belonging to the Vokkaliga heartland, the fight has always been between Congress and JDS. Even in 2008 and 2009, when BJP performed at its optimum, the party hardly mattered in this region. The situation was so dire for the BJP in this region that for all the 5 years of its Government, the party struggled to even appoint district-incharge Ministers due to lack of legislators from the area.
Whatever little growth the BJP has achieved over the last 5 years, has been essentially through inorganic means. In the upcoming elections, the party can play a smart spoiler in select Assembly seats. BJP’s ability to play a spoiler in this region can be crucial in the final analysis.
Urban Local Body poll 2013 March
Assembly Election 2008
LS Poll 2009 (Assembly segment leads)
Data Source: Election Commission of India & Karnataka State Election Commission
This region is crucial for Congress as well as JDS and both are fighting a tough battle as shown by the ULB results. If Congress pickings are less than 15 (out of 33) Assembly segments in this region, then it will be that much more difficult for the party to reach the halfway mark. Ideally, Congress should get about 20+ seats in this region to have any serious claim at forming the next Government on its own.
BJP has its role cut out here. The party has to position itself tactically to eat into Congress’s vote-share and help JDS win as many seats as possible. A hung Assembly is a far better result for the BJP than an outright victory of Congress. Hearteningly for the BJP, even as Congress has delayed its list, JDS has started campaigning vigorously and is showing all signs of putting up its best performance.
Caste-vote matrix and electoral issues
This is the Vokkaliga heartland ruled by the Gowdas. Vokkaligas and Kurubas dominate the caste landscape here, followed by Veerashaivas as the third pole. Scheduled castes, both in the left as well as right, are also present in significant numbers here (about 18 per cent). Muslims are also present in various pockets in fairly large numbers.
Before the arrival of BJP on the scene in a big way in this millennium, Congress’s core vote-bank consisted of Veerashaivas, Muslims, a lion’s share of scheduled caste vote and a portion of Vokkaligas. JDS core vote bank was Vokkaligas and Kurubas. All of this changed in the last decade — first Siddharamaiah’s exit from JDS meant an exodus of Kurubas to Congress, then BJP came into the scene to capture the Veerashaiva vote. Finally, the exit of BSY from BJP could add more complexity to the whole caste matrix of the region.
Today, JDS’s core vote is concentrated in the Vokkaligas, which may fetch them about a dozen seats, but in order to improve their seat tally, the party is wooing the minorities and other smaller castes. Congress’s core vote consists of Kurubas, minorities and a big chunk of SCs, which will help them win about 15 odd seats under the normal circumstances. For the party to improve its seat tally, it should get a bigger chunk of Vokkaliga and Veearashaiva vote.
There is hush-hush talk in the State about the leader of the opposition Siddharamaiah having secret talks with BSY’s KJP to tactically nullify the Lingayat (Veearashaiva) vote and maximise Congress’s gains in the Old Mysore region. On the other hand, former Prime Minister, Deve Gowda, is making an emotional appeal to the people of the region about this being his last election campaign.
Cauvery water dispute issue also holds sway in this region over the masses and JDS can gain by highlighting this aspect to the hilt, as voters tend to believe the regional parties to be more truthful about Cauvery than the compromising nature of national political parties. Since BJP is not a significant player here, minorities are willing to experiment with both Congress and JDS.