Amit Shah sounds poll bugle in Karnataka

Deccan Chronicle.  | Sanjay Basak

Nation, Politics

Union Home Minister, BJP leader, Amit Shah speaks during a public meeting in Mandya in Karnataka on Friday. (Photo: ANI Twitter)

NEW DELHI: Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday sounded the poll bugle in Karnataka by hitting Mandya, the JD(S)’ Vokkaliga-dominated bastion in south Karnataka. Shah’s rally in Mandya was an attempt to make inroads in the region where the party is apparently weak.

Shah inaugurated a mega dairy project at Mandya, where he shared the stage with former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, besides senior BJP leaders including Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai. Addressing a mammoth rally, Shah tore into the Congress and JD(S) and accused them of following the politics of “paarivarvaad” (dynastic politics).

“Enough of the Congress and JD(S)… it’s time the people of Mandya vote for the BJP,” he roared. During his two-day visit, Shah will also hold parlyes with the CM, Bommai, and senior party leaders over the proposed state Cabinet reshuffle. He will address “panna pramukhs” and booth agents in the state.

For the 2023 Assembly polls, due in April-May, Vokkaliga-dominated south Karnataka will be the BJP’s key target. Of the seven MLAs in Mandya district, six are Vokkaligas and one is a reserved seat. The JD(S) won all seven of them in 2018. Of the seven, one legislator, K.C. Narayana Gowda, switched over to the BJP in 2019.

However, in a big boost, the BJP won the Sira Assembly bypoll in Tumakur district for the first time ever in 2020. As per statistics, the Vokkaligas, a peasant caste, are reportedly dominant in 11 districts in south Karnataka. Besides Mandya, the community also maintains a powerful presence in Ramanagara, Hassan and Bengaluru Rural districts.

Besides being the JD(S) bastion, Mandya is also a Congress stronghold. KPCC chief D.K. Shivakumar, who belongs to the Vokkaliga community, wields strong a strong influence in this area. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reached out to the Vokkaliga community by unveiling a 108-foot statue of Kempegowda, the 16th century ruler, who laid the foundation of the city that later became Bengaluru.

Bommai has also gone on record saying that his government was “actively considering” the Vokkaliga community’s demand to raise the reservation quota from four per cent to 12 per cent.

While Bommai belongs to the dominant Lingayat community, BJP spin doctors were of the view that deep inroads need to be made into the Vokkaliga belt to decimate the Opposition. While Lingayats constitute nearly 17 per cent of the state’s population, the Vokkaligas are around 12 per cent. While Lingayats dominate north and central Karnataka, Vokkaligas were influential in south Karnataka.

Trying to reach out to the Vokkaligas, Shah exhorted the crowd to “free Karnataka from dynastic politics and corruption”. Branding the JD(S) and Congress as “protectors of criminals”, Mr Shah said that in the next five years “under the leadership of Modji, we will take Karnataka much ahead in the path of progress.”