Why Vokkaligas Protesting Shivakumar’s Arrest Should Worry BJP

More than 35,000 people marched in Bengaluru against the BJP’s vendetta politics. 

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Be it denying the Congress power in the 2018 Assembly elections or prompting a record victory margin for the BJP in the 2019 General Elections, caste has played a decisive role in Karnataka’s politics.

Hence, when on Wednesday, 11 September, more than 35,000 members of the Vokkaliga community partook in a massive rally against the BJP’s ‘vendetta politics’ in Bengaluru, it was a matter of grave concern for the saffron party.

The Vokkaligas and the Lingayats are two major communities in the state and play an integral role in deciding electoral outcomes. Vokkaligas, who comprise close to 12 percent of the state’s votes, and had traditionally supported the JD(S) and the Congress, voted in BJP’s favour in the previous general elections.

Thus, the massive rally has increased DK Shivakumar’s popularity among the Vokkaliga community as well as made clear that the BJP’s influence in the community is receding.

Why Have Vokkaligas Taken to the Streets?

According to members of the community, DK Shivakumar’s arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) served as the trigger, but discontent with the BJP has been growing for a while.

The community has described three reasons for this:

  • First, the BJP brought down the Vokkaliga leader HD Kumaraswamy-led government using ‘immoral methods’
  • Second, pressure from I-T Department led Cafe Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha to kill himself, and he was the son-in-law of Vokkaliga leader SM Krishna
  • Third, Vokkaliga strongman DK Shivakumar’s arrest because of BJP’s vendetta politics

Why Does This Concern BJP?

In the 2019 General Elections, the BJP had won 25 out of the 28 seats in the state, including seats in the old Mysore region, which is a Vokkaliga stronghold. The post-poll analysis had pointed out that Vokkaligas, upset over traditional rivals JD(S) and Congress joining hands, had voted in BJP’s favour.

One of the primary reasons behind BJP appointing Ashwath Narayan, a Vokkaliga, as the deputy chief minister was to ensure maintaining relevance in the vote bank. However, Wednesday’s march has rendered BJP’s plans moot.

Community leaders argue that the position handed to Ashwath Narayan was merely tokenism as he was a junior leader while senior Vokkaliga leader from the BJP, R Ashok, was sidelined. Further, the number of ministers from the community dipped from six to three.

Those who participated in the rally are convinced that while the protest will not get DK Shivakumar out of jail, it was important to send a strong message to the BJP which makes evident that their vendetta politics will affect their political future.

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