Karnataka: Congress sees chance to woo Lingayats | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: The growing speculation over BS Yediyurappa’s time in office has left Congress hoping that sections of the Lingayat community he represents will move away from BJP in anger.
Any shift in how Lingayats, BJP’s major support base, vote could significantly influence the next assembly elections, leading to possible gains for Congress.
But for this to happen, a lot will depend on how BJP handles Yediyurappa’s exit, if there is one, and whom it brings in as the new chief minister. Another Lingayat face may help it avoid or minimise loss of support.
Still, Congress members are counting on multiple factors to work and help them woo the community.
They are treading carefully while commenting on the reported churn in Karnataka BJP as Yediyurappa continues to enjoy wide popularity in the community. In fact, senior Congress MLAs and former ministers Shamanur Shivashankarappa and MB Patil have voiced solidarity with Yediyurappa by asking the BJP brass to treat the 78-year-old with respect.
Large parts of the community once backed Congress, thanks to the efforts of former chief minister Veerendra Patil. But they moved closer to BJP after Veerendra Patil was removed from the top job in 1990 by the then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi.
Lingayats account for 17 per cent of Karnataka’s population and form a big voter group in 95 out of the total 224 assembly constituencies. Whoever wins more than half of the 95 seats moves up to the third floor of the Vidhana Soudha. This was the case with BJP in the 2008 and 2018 assembly elections.
Congress has been trying to improve its position among Lingayat voters. In 2017, it launched a campaign seeking independent status for the community, but the move backfired in the 2018 assembly polls. With BJP reportedly struggling to find a successor to Yediyurappa, Congress believes there is an opportunity to win the community back.
“When we look at the legacy of Yediyurappa, Lingayats voted en masse for him in 2008, mainly because of the anger against former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and his reported Vokkaliga bais. Lingayats have continued to back BJP since then. Now, Congress is trying to capitalise where it failed the last time,” said SM Jamdar, the convener for the Jagtika Lingayat Mahasabha.
But MB Patil told TOI that his statement was not political in nature. “It was uncalled for, the manner in which Yediyurappa was treated when he reached Delhi. Even before he met the central leadership, the news of his supposed resignation was released to the media. For a man of his stature and age, who built Karnataka BJP from the ground up, it was truly hurtful. As a member of the community, I found it upsetting,” he said.
He added that he would say the same thing if Congress asked him to explain his comments.

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