Bengaluru: Given the caste divisions in Karnataka politics being deep, sharp and acute and the dynamics as well as the race among the communities for one-upmanship not to mention, the existing love-hate chemistry between various caste combinations, it is almost well-nigh impossible for any party to project a Brahmin as its Chief Ministerial candidate, particularly the BJP with its intertwining with the RSS.
The BJP would be committing a Himalayan blunder if it chooses a Brahmin be it Ananth Kumar Hegde or S. Suresh Kumar or B.L. Santosh or Prahlad Joshi as its next generation chief ministerial candidate for the simple reason that the numerically-strong, politically-conscious and electorally-crucial Lingayat community will not accept a Brahmin as chief minister.
The hidden agenda behind the state-wide agitation in 1981-82, was to oust the government headed by a Brahmin Chief Minister R. Gundu Rao, though the agitationists were clever and careful not to mention the caste-factor in their struggle. All that they said was that Kannada language was not getting priority and primacy and hence the government must go.
That the agitation was propelled by top Lingayat community leaders and seers should not be missed. Of course, other communities Vokkaligas, BCs and SC/STs too joined but essentially and principally the agitation was propelled y by the Lingayat community.
Ramakrishna Hegde, a Brahmin, was the exception. Being the blue-eyed boy of Late S. Nijalingappa the Numero Uno of the Lingayat Community Lingayats accepted him as their leader after just one word from Mr Nijalingappa. Moreover, Hegde, unlike Gundu Rao, was not very proud of his Brahmin background and always projected himself as a sane, sober and secular leader with a modern outlook. RGR, by contrast, was unabashedly proud of being a Brahmin.
Yet another point that should not be missed is the fact that after Hegde, no Brahmin could become the chief minister as all parties consciously avoided leaders from this community being projected as the CM candidate.
Ananth Kumar, who was an admirer of Hegde, well aware that he would not be able to become the CM, not only projected himself as CM candidate, remained hell-bent on becoming the chief minister, and made every attempt to get himself appointed as CM by the party’s central leadership, after getting a majority. Just as Hegde did in 1983.
But BSY, who, by that time, had become politically savvy as well as prudent, had begun to emerge as the sole leader and champion of the Lingayat Community. He struck an alliance with the JDS (HDK to be precise) in 2006 and became DyCM. That master-stroke helped him to occupy a seat, that was one shy away from being the CM. Ananth Kumar was left sulking. BSY also managed to launch a campaign that he had been betrayed by the JD(S) and sought votes on sympathy. Riding that wave, the Yeddyurappa led BJP got 110 seats, three short of the simple majority.
In the power struggle that ensued immediately after the resignation of BSY in July 2011 following his name appearing in the Lok Ayukta report on mining, BSY managed to get his protégé D.V. Sadananda Gowda, a Vokkaliga, elected as CM by the BJP MLAs where Lingayats constituted the majority. So, the majority of Lingayat MLAs voted for DVS, a Vokkaliga as against Jagadish Shettar, a Lingayat propped by Ananth Kumar. BSY’s clout and sway over the party MLAs was demonstrably visible to all. Again, Ananth Kumar could do nothing but sulk.
It is an open secret that the Lingayats who are traditionally anti-Congress – are with the BJP solely due to Yeddyurappa. If the BJP wants to retain its large chunk of Lingayat votes, it has to choose a Lingayat, that too anointed by none other than BSY. If, for any reason, the BJP chooses a Brahmin as its CM face, then the party is going to be doomed. This simple caste calculation should not be missed by the BJP, insiders say. The BJP cannot project a Vokkaliga or BC leader as the chief ministerial candidate. All said and done, the Vokkaligas are with H.D. Deve Gowda and majority of the BCs are with Siddaramaiah.
And by projecting a non-Lingayat, the BJP will be at the risk of losing the large chunk of Lingayat votes. The BJP must ensure an honourable and dignified exit of Yeddyurappa from electoral politics only after he anoints his successor in consultation with the community leaders. Any other game on the part of the BJP will definitely lead to electoral disaster.
The focus on finding someone to fill Ananth Kumar’s shoes is no doubt a challenge, but to dislodge BSY without a Lingayat to fill his rather large shoes, when the BJP is going to face the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is neither politically nor electorally prudent.