Experts differ on what caused Cong's coast rout, caste or religious polarisation

Experts differ on what caused Cong's coast rout, caste or religious polarisation

Outgoing Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, JD(S) President H D Kumaraswamy with other leaders leave after meeting with Governor Rudabhai Vajubhai Vala as Congress extends party support to JD(S) to form the new government after Karnataka Assembly Election results 2018 in Bengaluru on Tuesday. PTI Photo

Call it sweet revenge or polarisation, but the BJP has made a resounding comeback on the coast. It has swept the entire coast, bagging 16 out of 19 seats in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada. In 2013, BJP had won only three seats out of 19 seats in these districts.

In Dakshina Kannada district, the BJP has won seven out of eight seats. The big win was in Bantwal, where five-time MLA and four-time minister B Ramanath Rai, a bunt, was defeated by BJP's Rajesh Nayak.

Another heavyweight of the Congress R V Deshpande in Haliyal, Uttara Kannada, had a scare of his life, as at some point his lead had slid to below 1,500 votes. His winning margin was just 5,100 votes, which is uncharacteristic of his career. Another moneybag of Congress Pramod Madhwaraj, who contested from Udupi, lost to BJP, despite being the only candidate belonging to Mogaveera (fishermen) community.

Madhwaraj, a Mogaveera (backward community) and Ramanath Rai, a bunt (farmer community - Vokkaligas, as known in Old Mysore area) have been defeated by BJP candidates. Some of the winners from BJP were first-time contestants, like Rajesh Nayak in Bantwal, Dr Bharath Shetty in Mangaluru North, Vedavyas Kamath in Mangaluru South and Harish Poonja in Belthangady.

“It was a polarisation against Congress’s divisive policies which helped the BJP. New voters (20% as per EC statistics) are now against the division of people on the basis of caste and community. These are the days of competition, which has made young voters follow the ideas of Narendra Modi, who speaks of one India, irrespective of caste, religion, regional feelings and linguistic issues. This has made the young voters choose BJP,” Prof P L Dharma, director, PG centre of political science of Mangaluru University told DH.

In 2013, the Congress had swept seven out of eight seats in Dakshina Kannada and four out of five in Udupi. This time, the average voting on the coast (three districts) is to the tune of 78%, which has affected the performance of the Congress.

Communal polarisation has also worked on the coast to a great extent. The coast is known as the Hindutva laboratory. Whether or not the anti-Modi rhetoric by Congress campaigners has hurt the majority community, they attacked Modi as a person too many times and did not have the capacity to question his policies. The overtly community-directed appeasement policies of the Congress did great damage to the party, feel academics.

“It was not communal polarisation that wrecked the chances of the Congress, but caste polarisation on the coast. Just like the Lingayats, Brahmins, Vokkaligas and SCs in the rest of the state, the coast has seen three major castes, Bunts, Billavas and Brahmins (3Bs) polarising to a common cause, a tame affair compared to religious polarisation. Voters on the coast are far more organised in thoughts and action, which is why the BJP has swept the coast,” opined Prof Muzaffar Assadi, former head of the department of political science, University of Mysore.

(The writer is a senior journalist) 

* What happened in Karnataka (second coming of BJP) was the last effect of Modi wave created in 2014 - Prof P L Dharma

* Caste polarisation had indeed happened in Karnataka. Lingayat-Brahmins in Mumbai Karnataka, Scheduled Castes in Ballari-Davanagere, Chitradurga region, Vokkaligas in old Mysore and Bunt-Billava-Brahmin polarisation on the coast - Prof Muzaffar Assadi