Parties vie for Vokkaliga vote that's crucial in nearly 100 Assembly seats in Karnataka

News Network
April 9, 2023

Bengaluru, Apr 9: As Vokkaligas (15 per cent of the population) are considered to be the second politically significant major community of Karnataka after Lingayats (17 per cent), the focus is on how whether there would be a shift in their voting stance in the May 10 assembly election as the ruling BJP has aggressively tried to woo them.

One can gauge the role Vokkaligas play in Karnataka politics from the fact that it has given seven Chief Ministers to Karnataka since independence and a PM.

As a retired IAS officer puts it, this is a community which has rich political awareness. “Of the 17 Chief Ministers Karnataka had, seven were from the Vokkaliga community. K Chengalaraya Reddy, Kengal Hanumanthaiah and Kadidal Manjappa, the first three chief ministers of the state, were from the Vokkaliga Community,” the officer said.

He added that H D Deve Gowda, a Vokkaliga, became the first person from Karnataka to occupy the post of Prime Minister.

The Old Mysuru region, the community's stronghold, comprises Ramanagara, Mandya, Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Kodagu, Kolar, Tumakuru and Hassan districts. The region has 58 assembly constituencies, which is more than one-fourth of the total number of seats in the 224-member House.

JD(S) represented 24 seats, Congress 18 and BJP 15 in this region in the current assembly. This apart, the community is present in sizeable numbers in Bengaluru Urban district comprising 28 constituencies, Bengaluru Rural district (four constituencies), and Chikkaballapura (eight constituencies).

A political activist Raje Gowda claimed that Vokkaligas dominate in all the 27 out of 28 assembly constituencies of Bengaluru urban district barring Anekal. In the Bengaluru rural district and Chikkaballapura, they hold sway, he added.

“We are scattered ideologically and do not vote en masse like certain other communities. This shows we are liberal in choosing our leaders, which can be seen either as our weakness or our strength,” Raje Gowda quipped.

H D Deve Gowda-headed JD (S) counts the Vokkaligas as its main vote base in the Old Mysuru region, where it's main fight is with the Congress though of late the BJP has been able to make some inroads.

Apparently, seeking to expand its base among this community, the BJP government came up with its 'reservation engineering' making the 2B category of four per cent reservation, exclusively for 'other backward Muslims' redundant and distributed the two per cent equally among Lingayats and Vokkaligas. With this, reservation for Vokkaligas has gone up from four per cent to six per cent.

The move pleased the revered seer of Vokkaliga community, AdiChunchanagiri Math pontiff Swami Nirmalanandanatha, who praised the BJP government.

As part of its Vokkaliga "appeasement" exercise, the BJP built a 108-ft tall Nada Prabhu Kempe Gowda's statue, the founder of Bengaluru and 16th century chieftain of Vijayanagara dynasty, near the Bengaluru International Airport.

Recently, Karnataka Minister Munirathna, who is also a filmmaker, came up with a plan to make a movie 'Uri Gowda-Nanje Gowda' based on a fake story. The fake story is based on a belief among a section of people that there were two Vokkaliga chieftains in erstwhile Mysuru kingdom by name Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda. It was not the colonial British army but these two chieftains who killed the 18th century Mysuru ruler Tipu Sultan, a claim supported by even some BJP Ministers.

However, Munirathna dropped the plan after Swami Nirmalanandanatha asked him not to proceed with the project saying that there was no historical basis behind the story and it would only create confusion among people.

A Vokkaliga Sangha office-bearer said requesting anonymity that had the movie been made, it would have helped the BJP to garner more votes. “The 'Uri Gowda Nanje Gowda' project might have been dumped, but it is still discussed among Vokkaligas. Further, the increase in reservation will also have a bearing on the election, it seems,” he said.


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News Network
May 19,2023


Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip have held a demonstration against the so-called "flag march," which they view as a highly provocative act.

Reports said on Thursday that Israeli forces have attacked the Palestinian protesters near the eastern borders of Gaza City and injured several of them.

Israeli forces used live fire and tear gas against the protesters, injuring several of them, as far-right Israelis held the "flag march" in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds’s Old City.

The protest in Gaza was called for by Palestinian factions in response to the Israeli provocation.  

The demonstrators condemned the "flag march" in East Jerusalem al-Quds, and called for an end to Israeli attacks in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Similar protests were also held in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus in support of al-Quds.

The annual flag march marks Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and al-Quds in 1967. It is organized by far-right Israeli settlers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied al-Quds.

The march is also an attempt by extremist Israeli settlers to slam what they call the Tel Aviv regime’s failure to deal with the Palestinians and affirm their presence in the occupied Palestinian city and its holy sites.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) earlier warned that holding the demonstration would fuel tensions in the occupied territories and Israel will be fully responsible for any possible escalation.  

A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad movement also said the Israeli regime cannot defeat Palestinians through these measures.

He said the Palestinians’ fight against the regime won’t stop unless Israel is wiped off the map.

 Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Hamas resistance movement, commented on the issue as well.

He said the regime’s massive deployment of security forces to al-Quds shows it is fearful of acts of resistance by Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Israeli legislators are pushing a new bill that would see the display of the Palestinian flag punishable by up to one year in prison in the latest crackdown by the far-right Israeli administration.

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has already voted on preliminary approval of the bill, and it will need three additional votes to pass.

Ever since taking office earlier this year as the most right-wing administration in the Israeli regime’s history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet has introduced a raft of legislation aimed at appeasing the far-right society in the occupied territories.

The Islamic resistance movement Hamas censured the Israeli parliament’s plan to ban Palestinian flags from public places.

Hamas in a statement said the bill shows the insistence of the regime on its fascist agenda and is a declaration of war against Palestinians.

It added, the bill will not scare Palestinians, but will rather encourage them to carry and raise their national flag which represents their identity everywhere.

Hamas also called on the international community and the UN to condemn Israeli atrocities against Palestinian people.


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News Network
May 16,2023


Bengaluru, May 16: The Congress's cautious approach to resolving the 'DK Shivakumar or Siddaramaiah' conundrum in Karnataka has triggered a side-effect -- new claims from different caste groups for the chief minister post. 

The All India Veershaiva Mahasabha, which represents the influential Lingayat community, has bid for the top post, citing that 34 of the newly elected Congress MLAs are Lingayats. The swing of the Lingayat vote, once a key support base of the BJP, has been identified as a key factor in the Congress win this time.

Another claim has come in from the Dalit community. Supporters of veteran Congress leader G Parameshwara held a demonstration, demanding that the Dalit leader be chosen for the Chief Minister post. At the gathering in Tumkur, placards reading "a Dalit should be CM" were waved.

In a letter addressed to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha has said that the Congress had fielded 46 candidates from the community and 34 of them won.

The organisation has key Lingayat leaders among its members. Its president is 91-year-old Shamanuru Shivashankarappa, Karnataka's oldest MLA who won from Davangere South this time.  

"Further more, we wish to bring to your kind notice that our community has played a major role in electing other smaller communities in other 50 constituencies. This shows that the traditional voters of the BJP has shifted its loyalty to Congress party, thereby supporting the Congress party to win 134 constituencies in the state," the letter adds.

The community, which accounts for 17 per cent of Karnataka's population, can potentially swing outcomes in nearly 100 seats. It is the community's electoral significance that saw all parties vie for its support and promote Lingayat leaders in the run-up to the polls.

The organisation has further suggested that it is important that the Congress retains the support of the community for the general election due next year.

"Considering the above facts, we now urge the Congress party to give a chance/consider (a) Veerashaiva Lingayat community leader for the post of Chief Minister of Karnataka state," the letter states.

The organisation has also requested the Congress chief to ensure a number of cabinet berths for the community "which is proportionate to the number of MLAs of our community".

The demand for the Chief Minister post, however, seems more like a pressure building tactic as the two tallest Congress leaders in Karnataka are in running for the job and no third name has been come up in discussions so far.

Once a key support base of the BJP, the Lingayats backed the Congress this time, results in the seats dominated by the community have indicated.

Former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who switched from the BJP to the Congress days before polls, said that the Lingayats support the Congress this time.

A key factor behind the Lingayat swing could be the removal of BS Yediyurappa, BJP veteran and tallest Lingayat leader in Karnataka, as chief minister over corruption charges. While the BJP replaced him with Basavaraj Bommai, another Lingayat leader, the results indicate it did not help the party's poll prospects. Even the last minute move to scrap 4% reservation to Muslims and its reallocation among Lingayats and Vokkaliga did not not work in the BJP's favour. 

The seeds of Congress' current dilemma over the choice of a chief minister were, in fact, sown during their poll campaign. To take on the BJP's formidable election machinery, the party avoided projecting a single leader as the face of its campaign. Instead, it projected the trio of Mr Shivakumar, Mr Siddaramaiah and its national chief Mr Kharge as leading its Karnataka push.

While Mr Shivakumar belongs to the influential Vokkaliga community, which dominates southern Karnataka, Mr Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba, a backward caste group that has sizeable presence in central and northern Karnataka. With the Dalit roots of its national president Kharge, Congress got a panel of leaders that appealed, in total, to a huge chunk of Karnataka's population.

While this hugely benefited the Congress campaign and paved the way for its victory, the competing claims for the top job are now proving to be a hurdle in its decision-making.


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News Network
May 20,2023


Bengaluru, May 20: BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel on Saturday took a swipe at new Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah alleging that he does not enjoy the freedom of picking Ministers of his choice in his Cabinet.

Posting a letter by the Congress general secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal to Siddaramaiah on his Twitter handle, Kateel said the new Chief Minister has become a puppet of Congress high command from day one.

In the letter, Venugopal shared the list of eight MLAs saying that Congress president M Mallikarjun Kharge has approved their names as the Cabinet Ministers.

"You are hereby requested to see that this decision is executed as per provisions of the appropriate law," Venugopal wrote in the letter.

"This letter is proof that Siddaramaiah does not have the freedom to decide who should be Ministers in the Congress government of Karnataka. Siddaramaiah who believes in socialist ideology became a puppet and rubber stamp Chief Minister of the Congress high command from the day one," Kateel tweeted.

Siddaramaiah was sworn in as Chief Minister for the second term, along with state Congress president D K Shivakumar as Deputy Chief Minister, and eight legislators as Ministers on Saturday, exactly a week after the party swept the Assembly polls in Karnataka.


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