Karnataka Assembly Elections: A Heady Concoction of Caste, Religion, Corruption, Development & Controversies!

The Election Commission of India has announced Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections on May 10, 2023. There are 224 total seats in Karnataka Legislative Assembly. Presently, BJP has 119 MLA, Congress 75 MLA and Janata Dal Secular (S) 28 MLA.

For a majority and to form government, 113 seats are required. As far as the South Indian states are concerned, BJP had little success in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. With only Karnataka in hand, BJP is already campaigning with all its might.

Last visit by PM Modi (on March 25) to Karnataka was his Seventh visit underlines the importance. Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP’s national president J P Nadda visited many times. Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal promised freebies and accused state government of increased corruption in their visit.

With the state government plagued by corruption charges, leadership issues, turncoats and controversial policies and a unifying opposition, BJP has to produce a best campaign mix to lessen their impact on its votes.
BJP is working castes & sects’ equations and using history, religion and personalities. The party has popularity and charisma of PM Modi. The state government has already altered the reservation policy and executing many development projects in different fields.A tough and close fight is on cards with a BJP yet to win a clear majority in Karnataka and a watchful aggressive opposition.

In the caste ridden politics of Karnataka, BJP has B S Yediyurappa, now 80, a Lingayat since initial years. The BJP is trying to woo the dominant Vokkaliga community in Mysuru region to expand its base in South Karnataka. HD Kumarswamy the JD (S) president and who served as chief Minister twice is hailed from the Vokkaliga community and is a popular figure.

Recently BJP claimed that two Vokkaligas were the actual killers of Tipu Sultan (Muslim ruler of Mysore state and a controversial bipartisan figure). Munirathna, a BJP minister of horticulture and also a film producer, even announced a film on Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda. As there is almost no historical proof, the whole episode became controversial. The opposition protested and the Congress State president DK Shivakumar appealed religious authorities. It required an intervention by top religious Vokkaliga authority of Seer Nirmalanandanatha Swamiji of Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana mutt. He asked to not to proceed and believe unless proof is produced.

The state government has cancelled the 4 per cent OBC reservation for Muslims. They are now accommodated in 10 percent Economically Weaker Section. The reservation quota is now increased from 50 to 56 percent. The economically weaker section already has Brahmins, Vyasas, Mudaliyars, Jains and others. The four per cent will now be alloted to Vokkaligas (two percent) and Lingyats (two per cent). Additionally, the karantaka government has hiked reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs) from 15 to 17 percent and Scheduled Tribes (ST) from 3 to 7 percent. Vokkaligas and others are now stand for six percent and Veershaiva Panchamsali and others (Lingayat) to seven per cent reservation.

Union Home minister Amit Shah stated that the reservation for Muslim community created by the Congress was unconstitutional. The Muslim community has decided to appeal and to fight the reservation policy legally. The opposition accused BJP of polarizing the society and using it as an election ploy. It will broaden the BJP base in two communities, but will alienate Muslim community (13%) further.

The Janata Dal (S) released its first list of 93 candidates and Congress of 124 candidates. The BJP, is yet to announce the list. The party is trying to stop discontent in its cadre and Yediyurappa and his son from influencing the candidate list creating further discontentment. The BJP wants to use BS Yediyurappa’s stature to check exodus.

Puttannaa, a four-time Legislative Council member has joined the Congress party and accused the BJP government of large-scale corruption. Baburao Chinchansur who has defeated Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge in last Loksabha election is re-joining the Congress.

All opposite political parties have accused the state government of wide spread, uncontrolled corruption. BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa and a close aid of former Chief Minister Yediyurappa is recently arrested by Karnataka Lokayukt in a bribery case.
Senior Congress legislator Priyank Kharage accused ruling government of facilitating a scam in Molasses export.
Manjunath – Head of Karnataka States Contractors’ Association claimed that he had documents, audio clips, WhatsApp messages proving several minister and legislators were demanding bribes. He specifically mentioned paying Chitradurg MLA G H Thippareddy a bribe of Rs. 90 Lakh from 2019 to 2022.
The Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools and the registered unaided private school management association alleged bribes being demanded by the state education department for recognition certificates.
Karnataka Contractors’ Association complained to PM about 30 percent of tender amount demand for approval and 5-6 percent towards the release of ‘Letter of Credit’ against pending bills by authorities and ministers.

Lingayat Seer Dingaleshwara Swamiji of Balehosur Mutt accused demanding 30 per cent commission From Mutts to release funds.
W R Vishwanth who is a BJP MLA and President Banglore Development Authority accused Sub- Registrar office of changing and converting government land status around Bengaluru to private land. He accused layout changes and bogus registrations.
In 2022, 400 Anti-Corruption Bureau sleuths conducted search operations at the residences of 18 govt. officials for disproportionate assets.

Many infrastructures development, health, agriculture, irrigation and drinking water projects are in full swing
Bengluru – Mysuru Expressway is completed. PM Modi said that it will reduce the travel time considerably and will boost economic activities.
PM Modi has inaugurated the long pending Whitefield-KR Puram Metro section of 13.7km in Bengaluru city. The Metro stretch would make Bengaluru Metro the second-largest network in the country. The Upper Bhadra irrigation project for parched area of Central Karnataka is aided with Rupees 5300 crore. Under Kisan Samman Nidhi, Rupees 12 thousand crore rupees are directly transferred to the bank accounts of the farmers. Rupees 850 crore IIT Dharwad is developed. A 1507-metre-long platform of Rupees 20 crore is developed at Sri Siddharoodha Swamiji Hubbali railway station.

Water supply scheme in Dharwad district, medical facility centres, Tupparihalla Flood damage control projecst worth Rupees 1000 crore are under development.
Kantataka government has already spent more than 55 per cent of the 2.5 lakh crore budgetary allocations indicates the development works. About 1100 crore worth projects for 18-km length on NH-52 from 2-lane to 4-lane in the Karwar district, widening 13.8 km on NH- 150 A in Raichur district, widening on NH-150A, widening on NH 69 overbridges in Shivamogga district are going on.

The opposition is unified in attacking ruling government on corruption and its dividing policies. Rahul Gandhi promised jobs for 10 lakh unemployed in five years, filling up 2.5 lakh govt vacancies, Rs 3000 per month to every graduate and Rs 1500 per month to every diploma holder for 2 years as unemployment allowance. He promised 200 units of free power to all households, Rupees 2000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family and 10 kg of rice free to every member of the BPL household. AAP president Arvind Kejriwal accused the state government as a 40 per cent commission charging government. Congress and JD (S) leaders are accusing BJP of creating rift in the religion and castes and polarization for votes. The outcome of Karnataka election is sure to impact the approaching state assembly elections this year and the Loksabha elections next year.