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Yeddyurappa Denies CM Post to HD Kumaraswamy. Is it Vokkaliga Versus Lingayat Again in Karnataka?

In all, Vokkaliga chief ministers ruled the state for just 92 months or less than eight years since 1956. Whereas, the Lingayat chief ministers have ruled the state for over 27 years during the same period.

D P Satish | News18dp_satish

Updated:May 17, 2018, 6:59 PM IST
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Bengaluru: In its eagerness to install BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP government in Karnataka, the party high command may have shot itself in the leg.

The state is back to old Lingayats versus Vokkaligas fight. The Vokkaligas, backbone of the Gowdas vote bank who have mended their relationship with the BJP in the last five years, have now turned against the saffron party for denying the CM post to a fellow Vokkaliga leader H D Kumaraswamy.

After Karnataka was reorganised on November 1, 1956 the Lingayats dominated the state politics and only they held the post of CM between 1956 and 1972. H D Deve Gowda became the first Vokkaliga chief minister of the state in 1994. He demitted the office to go to New Delhi and S M Krishna became the second Vokkaliga CM in 1999. In 2006, Gowda’s son H D Kumaraswamy became the chief minister for 20 months.

In all, Vokkaliga chief ministers ruled the state for just 92 months or less than eight years since 1956. Whereas, the Lingayat chief ministers have ruled the state for over 27 years during the same period.

Vokkaligas, a 100% farming community, are concentrated only in the old Mysore districts and they constitute about 11-12% of the total population of Karnataka. The Lingayats are heavily concentrated in north Karnataka, though they are substantial in numbers in southern Karnataka too. Their population is about 15%.

Their rivalry goes back even to pre-independence days. After the Independence the most Vokkaliga leaders had opposed the merger of all Kannada speaking areas with the old Mysore state fearing Lingayat domination in politics.

But the then chief minister of old Mysore state and a tall Vokkaliga leader Kengal Hanumanthaiah had overruled their objections and had fully backed the unification. Ironically, he was removed from the CM post and a tall Lingayat leader S Nijalingappa became the first CM of united Karnataka in 1956. After that they had to wait for 38 years to see a Vokkaliga CM in Deve Gowda.

The Gowda clan is both admired and feared in eight districts of old Mysore region and has stopped the BJP from establishing itself as a serious political party there. The fight is between only the Congress and the JDS. The BJP has been a marginal force having a good presence only in Bengaluru.

To counter the Gowda’s, the BJP has also promoted some Vokkaliga leaders. But none was a match to the stature the Gowdas enjoy across old Mysore. The BJP also tried to cozy up to Vokkaligas through UP CM Yogi Adityanath, who is the head of Nath sect. The Vokkaliga mutt is also a Nath sect Mutt, though most Vokkaligas follow Vaishnavism and not Shaivism.

The former CM Siddaramaiah’s perceived anti-Vokkaliga stance did him in and the caste went for a strategic voting transferring its votes to BJP helping them in winning nine Assembly seats from Vokkaliga belt in this election. These MLAs are now worried about their future prospects fully knowing that hurt sentiments of the Gowdas will surely work against them. The BSP supremo Mayawati has already held the Congress responsible for pushing the Vokkaligas towards the BJP in some seats. “The Congress should not have called the JDS “B” team of the BJP”, Mayawati had said.

In 2008, the same Yeddyurappa cried foul after Kumaraswamy denied him the CM post terming it as an insult to entire Lingayat community. That “betrayal” paid him rich dividends and he won the 2008 Assembly polls to become the CM.

Ten years later, Kumaraswamy is crying foul holding Yeddyurappa responsible for denying him the CM’s chair. Will it backfire? We will have to wait till 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Because the history repeats in different forms.

| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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