Lingayat issue, complacency led to Congress defeat

(From left) Congress leaders B R Patil, ministers Sharan Prakash Patil and Vinay Kulkarni, who were in the forefront of the separate Lingayat religionmovement, were defeated by their BJP rivals. DH FILE PHOTO

It looks as though the Congress’ worst fear came true. The decision to accord ‘religious minority’ status on the dominant Lingayat community has resulted in electoral losses for the party.

Not only did the party lose badly in the Lingayat-dominated constituencies, a majority of prominent leaders who were actively involved in the ‘separate Lingayat religion’ movement suffered defeat.

Mines and Geology Minister Vinay Kulkarni (Dharwad), Medical Education Minister Dr Sharanprakash Patil (Sedam), Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddi (Yelburga) and sitting MLA B R Patil (Aland) are among those who faced the defeat.

They were defeated by the BJP candidates, a clear sign that there was a consolidation of Lingayat votes in the backdrop of the BJP’s narrative that the Congress divided society by declaring Lingayats as a minority community.

The BJP also painted it as an attempt to prevent B S Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, from becoming chief minister. 

However, Water Resources Minister M B Patil, the leader of the Lingayat camp, managed to win comfortably in Bableshwar.

That the decision would backfire was a worry that was eating the Congress from within. No leader spoke about the ‘separate Lingayat religion’ movement during the party’s campaign.

Add to this the fact that there was a divide within the Congress, with the Veerashaivas led by the party’s veteran leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa opposing the move. Shivashankarappa won from Davangere South, but his son and Horticulture Minister S S Mallikarjun lost Davangere North to the BJP.  

The Congress seems to have borne the brunt of the anger of another dominant community, the Vokkaligas.

That Vokkaliga votes consolidated against the Congress became evident with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s defeat in Chamundeshwari at the hands of G T Deve Gowda of the JD(S). The Congress also lost Malavalli, Nagamangala, Srirangapatna and Magadi.  

The ruling Congress was also plagued with an inefficient campaign, in that the party made noise mostly only during its president
Rahul Gandhi’s tours. Before Rahul started his pre-poll campaign in February,
Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G Parameshwara took out separate campaigns, which pointed out that there was no unity among leaders.

It is also said that an element of overconfidence had crept in. “If we yield to overconfidence, we will be in trouble,” Parameshwara had publicly said in March. The party’s campaign committee chief, D K Shivakumar, told reporters: “Ultimately, we have failed in various aspects.”  

Besides, the grand-old party performed poorly in the coastal region, mainly on account of polarisation of votes. The party was on the defensive on the issue of killing of the BJP and the RSS workers.

The Congress, which was claiming that there was no anti-incumbency factor, was confident of winning a simple majority.

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Lingayat issue, complacency led to Congress defeat

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