The Lingayat vote bank, which had traditionally supported the BJP, switched to the Congress party in the Karnataka assembly elections. This shift played a crucial role in the Congress party’s landslide victory.
Congress won 37 out of 46 Lingayat-contested seats, a significant increase from their 2018 tally of 13. It is their second-highest number of Lingayat MLAs since 1989 when Veerendra Patil led the party to a resounding victory. During that election, Congress won 178 seats, with 44 belonging to Lingayat candidates.
In contrast, the BJP, which fielded 69 Lingayat candidates, managed to secure victory in only 15 seats.
MB Patil, a prominent Lingayat leader and chairman of the Congress campaign committee, expressed satisfaction with the overwhelming support received from Lingayats across various regions. He highlighted that these elections have proven the perception wrong that Lingayats were averse to Congress.
Lingayats, as the state’s largest community, hold significant political influence, accounting for nearly 17% of the total electorate in Karnataka. The Congress party won many of the assembly segments where Lingayats hold sway, reflecting the community’s dominance in the distribution of seats in the Karnataka Assembly, which has a total of 224 segments.
The primary reason for the community’s shift in support was the sidelining of Lingayat strongman Yediyurappa. Yediyurappa resigned as Chief Minister in July 2021 due to corruption allegations, ending his fourth term. As a prominent leader of the Lingayat community, his departure had a profound impact.
The appointment of Basavaraj Bommai, a Yediyurappa loyalist, as his successor did not sit well with the Lingayat community. In fact, 500 influential Lingayat sadhus protested against this decision and warned of irreparable damage. Additionally, a Lingayat seer accused the government of demanding a 30% commission from religious institutions.
The situation worsened when other prominent BJP Lingayat leaders, such as former Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister Savadi, were denied tickets. This further alienated the politically crucial Lingayat community, which has produced nine Chief Ministers for the state.
The BJP’s last-minute efforts to provide reservations in jobs and education were ineffective in recovering support. Despite allocating 7% of the Other Backward Classes reservation to Lingayats, the party failed to regain their backing. The shift of the Lingayat vote bank played a crucial role in the Congress party’s victory, capitalizing on discontent caused by the BJP’s actions.