Karnataka Assembly polls: Every region is different, holds a key to power

Coastal Karnataka (19 seats)

Districts: Dakshina Kannada, Udupi (South Canara) and Uttara Kannada (North Canara)

The coastal region of Karnataka has had a foreign connect. With towns like Bhatkal, the region has prospered from trade with West Asian countries and minority consciousness is high. It is also a communal tinderbox because the majority is equally conscious of its identity. This is the region that has given rise to organisations like the Sri Rama Sene.

In the 2013 election, because of the split in the vote of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) between the Karnataka Janata Pakshe of B S Yeddyurappa and the BJP, the Congress was able to drive home its advantage.

This time, on the surface it appears that all the factions in the BJP are together and want to establish a BJP government in Bengaluru. With the Janata Dal (Secular) having only a marginal presence in this area, in the 2018 assembly election it will be a straight fight between the two national parties.

Old Mysore  (61 seats)

Districts: Mysuru, Mandya , Hassan, Chamarajnagar, Ramanagaram, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru

This is the area owing allegiance to the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and is politically dominated by the Vokkaliga community. Dalits are present here in large numbers as well. Among Vokkaligas, immediate recall is for JD( S) founder, former Prime Minister, and former chief minister HD Deve Gowda, who belongs to Hassan. Politically influential, the BJP is not a traditional force in this region — it is dominated by the Congress and the JD(S). In 2013 the JD(S) got 40 seats in the assembly —the largest chunk of this came from this region.

Having said that, the BJP did badly in this region in the 2013 assembly election but reported victories with a large margin in the Lok Sabha elections less than a year later, possibly because of Narendra Modi’s image. Will that work this time ?

Bangalore (28 seats)

Districts: Bengaluru rural and urban

Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city with a sizeable population of educated middle class who have origins in other state but have now made Karnataka their home. This vote bloc also leans towards the BJP. There is also an important migrant population — largely Tamil-speaking but also Malayalam- and Telugu-speaking — that is part of the Bengaluru electorate.

There are some rural enclaves attached to what is primarily an urban voting region. Issues like delivery of services, state of the physical infrastructure, corruption, land mafia and its connections with political leaders are all hotly contested issues. 

But then, with its traditional vote bank and that of the minorities and more, the Congress is also a major player and not a mere pushover in this region.

Bombay-Karnataka (50 seats)

Districts: Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Belagavi, Dharwar, Karwar or Uttar Kannada, Haveri and Gadag

Bombay Karnataka refers to the Kannada-speaking districts bordering Maharashtra, which were earlier part of the Bombay Presidency.

Today, the biggest problem is the crisis among the farming community. This is a largely rural area and despite regular visits by Chief Minister Sidddaramaiah to Belagavi, special grants to the water-starved area and the recent dispute over the flow of the Mahadayi river, the Congress is seen as ineffectual. Evidence of this was the massive turnout in support of the BJP  when Yeddyurappa undertook a yatra here in December, accompanied by UP CM Yogi Adityanath.  The region is dominated by the Lingayat community.

Yeddyurappa is considered a strong Lingayat leader. Even though it is the Congress that has offered Lingayats minority status, this could have some resonance with the caste.

Hyderabad-Karnataka (40 seats)

Districts: Bidar, Yadgir,Raichur, Koppal, Kalaburagi  and Ballari

Ballari and the mine and mineral-rich vein of Karnataka falls in this region. Now, the Congress is highlighting all it did in the last five-year rule in the state, as also the Special Package for the region formulated by the UPA government. The package offers special treatment for the region in education, jobs, health, etc.  

In 2008, when the BJP came to power, the party made gains in the region, particularly in Ballari. By 2013, the Reddy brothers had  become the face of rampant illegal mining, and the BJP lost. This time, at least one of the mining lords has been nominated by the BJP. Of the 40 seats in the region, 18 are reserved — both for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. If in 2008, the BJP won 12 of the reserved seats, in 2013, the Congress won 11. This, along with the fact that Lingayats are influential, is going to be an important factor.

Central Karnataka (26 seats)

Districts: Tumakuru, Chitradurga, Davangere, Ballari and Shivamogga

In 2013, this region contributed the most to the BJP’s downfall — its performance was disastrous. It managed to win just two seats in the  Central Karnataka region. Part of the reason was the split in the party. This is the area of Yeddyurappa’s influence (Shivamogga) and his party, the Karnataka Janata Pakshe, floated ahead of the 2013 elections, showed everyone who the boss was. 

But this time he is back in the BJP. What is more, he has already been named as the BJP chief ministerial candidate. So people here do believe they will be voting for the CM when they vote the BJP. Add to this, overall desperation and neglect: Shivamogga district has seen the closure of its century-old iron and steel factory, paper and sugar mills and mass migration of people — and the Congress has a tough challenge before it.

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