Analysis | Karnataka BJP's worry: 5 ministers but no OBC, SC/ST representation

Nirmala Sitharaman. File photo: PTI

Over-representation of South Karnataka, in particular Bengaluru, with north Karnataka getting just one of the total five berths in the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised concerns of a regional imbalance. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) central leadership seems to have got its arithmetic right. Of the 19 of the total 28 Lok Sabha seats won by the BJP and Janata Dal (Secular-JDS) alliance, the old Mysuru area's contribution was 13 seats and north Karnataka 6.

In 2019, the BJP on its own had won 25 of the 28 seats and five from the state were inducted into the Cabinet. Karnataka's contribution (17) to the 30 seats the party won from the southern states was significant. This time the BJP won 29 out of the 129 LS seats from the south.

H D Kumaraswamy swearing-in. Photo: PTI

What has caused heartburn among a section in the BJP is the total neglect of the other backward classes (OBCs) and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The BJP has given representation to two Brahmins, two Vokkaligas and one Lingayat, while making the selection of the Union ministers. In fact, the Scheduled Castes representing the Madigas sect, who have stood by the BJP since 2008 have been left out.

Two BJP MPs belonging to the Madigas sect, Ramesh C Jigajinagi from Vijayapura and Govind M Karjol from Chitradurga have won. In Karnataka the Scheduled Castes are grouped into two sects -- Madigas, who are basically engaged in leather work, stone-cutting and are economically and politically backward, and the Holeya, who are in the forefront in education and politics.

The five new ministers from Karnataka are Nirmala Sitharaman (Rajya Sabha MP), Pralhad V Joshi (Dharwad in north Karnataka), HD Kumaraswamy, Shobha Karandlaje and V Somanna (all from Old Mysuru area). In the caste-wise break up Sitharaman and Joshi are Brahmins, Somanna a Lingayat and Kumaraswamy and Karandlaje both represent the Vokkaliga community.

A file photo of Shobha Karandlaje with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI

While Sitharaman and Joshi were expected to be inducted into the Cabinet by default, the yardstick for Karandlaje becoming a minister for the second time in Modi's Cabinet was representation to a woman and to the Vokkaliga community. According to BJP sources, the alliance with the JD(S) has helped the party as the latter helped in transferring the Vokkaliga votes in the Old Mysuru area, where the community is dominant in nine districts.

The Lok Sabha poll results have also pushed the prospects of Kumaraswamy as a Vokkaliga leader as he won from Mandya and his brother-in-law, noted cardiologist CN Manjunath from Bengaluru Rural. In both constituencies the Vokkaligas are in a majority. In 2019,Kumaraswamy's son Nikhil Kumaraswamy had lost the Mandya Lok Sabha seat to Independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh and in the 2023 Assembly polls, the JD(S) was completely wiped out in the district's eight segments.

A file photo of Pralhad Joshi. Photo: PTI

"Karandlaje's induction was to send a message to the Vokkaliga community that the BJP has acknowledged their contribution and to ensure Kumaraswamy does not hog the limelight. The Congress and the JD(S) have been winning seats in the Old Mysuru area all these years and the BJP has made inroads now,'' sources added.

The surprise element in the selection of ministers from Karnataka was V Somanna, an influential Lingayat leader, who won from Tumakuru. He overtook two former Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai and Jagadish Shettar, both Lingayats and seniors in the party.

BJP sources said Somanna was Union Home Minister Amit Shah's choice, who had convinced a reluctant Somanna to contest from two Assembly constituencies in 2023, leaving his traditional constituency Govindarajnagar in Bengaluru. Somanna lost from both constituencies and his demand to be made the state unit president was overlooked. A sulking Somanna had contemplated joining the Congress, where he was an MLA in 2008.

Besides, Somanna is seen as an influential Lingayat leader after former chief minister BS Yediyurappa and has maintained a good rapport with the mutts, in particular the Siddaganga mutt in Tumakuru. Another reason for Somanna to be picked is BY Raghavendra, three-term MP and son of Yediyurappa, cannot be accommodated in the Cabinet with his younger brother BY Vijayendra heading the state unit. Both Bommai and Shettar influence is confined to their constituencies and Kittur Karnataka (Mumbai-Karnataka).

V Somanna meeting Rajnath Singh. Photo: PTI

Neglect of the coastal belt, which has been totally saffronised and stood by the BJP all these years has also upset the leaders of that region. In the current elections the BJP won all the three coastal seats with an impressive margin.

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