Lok Sabha results for Karnataka highlight the State’s complex caste dynamics

BJP-JD(S) alliance restricts Congress to nine seats in an election that once again proved the indispensability of B.S. Yediyurappa for the BJP.

Published : Jun 05, 2024 15:14 IST - 4 MINS READ

BJP workers celebrate the victory of party candidate B.Y. Raghavendra in Shivamogga on Tuesday.

BJP workers celebrate the victory of party candidate B.Y. Raghavendra in Shivamogga on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Riding on the support from the Janata Dal (Secular), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) restricted the Congress to a mere nine seats in Karnataka. Of the 28 seats in the State, the BJP won 17 while two were won by the JD(S). With this result, the voters of Karnataka remained faithful to the historical pattern established in 2004 of emphatically providing more seats to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections when compared to the preceding Legislative Assembly election.

The BJP, which got only 36 per cent of the vote share in the 2023 Karnataka election, secured more than 46 per cent of the votes cast in the Lok Sabha election.

Considering that the Congress won only one Lok Sabha seat in the election of 2019, the increase in its kitty is substantial but falls well short of the target that the party had set for itself. In public pronouncements, both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister D. K. Shivakumar reiterated that the Congress would win at least 20 seats.

Also Read | Lahar Singh Siroya: ‘What should we do when Muslim leaders do not want to join us?’

In 2019, the BJP won 25 seats and has suffered a loss of eight seats this time but the party will be satisfied with its performance because it managed to win 17 seats in the face of a formidable campaign by the Congress, which fought this election aggressively with its focus on State-specific issues. After its resounding loss in the Legislative Assembly election last year, when the BJP managed to win only 66 seats, the party took several months to rally its forces with its factionalised State unit cohering only early this year to surmount a challenge to the Congress.

With the implementation of its five guarantees and with its hold on power in Karnataka, the Congress also seemed to control the campaign narrative with the BJP struggling to build up an issue with which it could pin the government down.

Three factors contributed immensely to the BJP-JD(S) alliance’s success in Karnataka: first, the successful transfer of votes between the supporters of the two parties. For an alliance to work at the hustings, the loyal voters of one political party must transfer their votes to the alliance partner. This took place across the seats of south Karnataka from Udupi to Kolar where the Vokkaliga community, who are considered to be traditional supporters of the JD(S), transferred their votes to BJP candidates. This was manifested most prominently in the victory of BJP candidate, C.N. Manjunath, who defeated his powerful opponent, D.K. Suresh, by a significant margin.

Also Read | North Karnataka: BJP, Congress in direct fight for 14 Lok Sabha seats

Second, the BJP’s core support base in north-west Karnataka remained intact. Here, the BJP’s social base is anchored by the Lingayats and further augmented by wider support from the Backward Castes and Brahmins. The Congress’ success, on the other hand, was in the north-east division of the State where it won all five seats. The demography of this region is distinct with a slightly greater share of Dalits and religious minorities; the entire area is also relatively more backward in terms of its performance on crucial human development indices when compared to other parts of Karnataka.

Third, the BJP’s communal strongholds of coastal Karnataka remained intact with the party quelling the strategic challenge posed by the Congress, which attempted to breach this stronghold with its choice of candidates. The BJP mainly relies on a careful calculus of caste politics in other parts of Karnataka but Hindutva has rooted itself in coastal Karnataka because of historical factors and its success here is solely based on the allure of its ideology.

The mantle of Vokkaliga leadership

Karnataka was considered a crucial swing state with the expectations that the Congress’ gains here would provide an impetus to the overall tally of the INDIA alliance, but the shortfall has come as a setback for the State leadership of the Congress. Siddaramaiah could not ensure the victory of the Congress’ candidate in Mysuru, his home turf, from where the scion of the erstwhile Mysore royal family, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, won handsomely. For D. K. Shivakumar, the losses in south Karnataka and especially that of his brother, Suresh, reveal that at least for now, the mantle of Vokkaliga leadership in Karnataka remains out of his hands.

The election results again show the indispensability of B.S. Yediyurappa for the BJP. His elder son, B.Y. Raghavendra, won the Shivamogga seat while his younger son, B.Y. Vijayendra, led the battle from the front as State party president. The favourable result for the party will provide a boost for the continued relevance of Yediyurappa. The BJP has stated that it will continue its alliance with the JD(S) in the future and the burden of sustaining this tenuous relationship between the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the two dominant castes of Karnataka, will rest in the hands of Yediyurappa and H.D. Kumaraswamy who won by a massive margin from Mandya.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment