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In some ways, the recently concluded Karnataka elections are a return to the state’s history of a multi-cultural society with distinct regions and caste equations. The BJP had tried to push Karnataka society towards uniformity and unipolarity but it has been defeated squarely.

Unlike Karnataka, Tamil Nadu has voted as a state but the last two elections showed that the original sub-regional differences in political preferences are becoming stronger here. The way parties approach elections there may therefore be a sign of things to come in Tamil Nadu too.

The Karnataka state is known for its diversity in culture, means of livelihoods, language and dialects, and religious practices. When the state boundaries were drawn in 1950 after the first constituent assembly meeting, Karnataka was carved out of three states – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (Madras Presidency) and Andhra Pradesh. The regions were called Bombay Karnataka, Hyderabad Karnataka and Madras Karnataka. Over time, these regions have shifted borders and multiplied. Today, the state is made up of Kittur Karnataka, Kalyana Karnataka, Central Karnataka, Coastal Karnataka, old Mysore and Bangalore zones.

The question that is bugging the BJP is that Hindutva failed in five zones except coastal Karnataka, where it has retained its supremacy. This zone is inhabited by billavas (toddy tappers) bunts (land owners), mogaveeras(fishermen) and micro OBCs like kulals(potters), vishwakarma (gold and silver smelters), devangas (people who get to hold the paraphernalia during temple festivals), devadigas (people who are play drums and percussion instruments), ganigas (oil millers), as well as brahmin sub-castes madhwas, shivally,  and havyakas. These communities had overwhelmingly followed the BJP during the ‘great Modi wave’ in 2014. They registered over 60 per cent of votes for the BJP in the 2018 elections. This vote share for the BJP has dwindled to just 30 percent in the 2023 elections.

The question that is bugging the BJP is that Hindutva failed in five zones except coastal Karnataka, where it has retained its supremacy

Similarly, in the northern parts of the coastal zones, mainly Uttara Kannada district, and in Kittur and Khanapur, the Maharashtra influence, particularly the Maratha kshatriyas (Micro OBCs), is significant, particularly in Haliyal, Dandeli, Siddapura, Yellapur, and in Kumta. Despite the Congress votes being divided between the JDS and Congress in both Haliyal and Sirsi constituencies, the BJP couldn’t benefit. In Uttara Kannada district, Bhatkal, Haliyal, Sirsi, Kittur, and Khanapur have been won by the Congress party, though with moderate margins.

The battle for the old Mysore region was the fiercest among all the regions in Karnataka. About 45 seats in this region are on the offering in six districts mainly ChamarajaNagar, Mysuru, Mandya, Tumukuru, Bengaluru rural and Ramanagaram districts. Most of the seats witnessed triangular contests.

Also Read: TN BJP chief Annamalai a hit in Karnataka too

In the drier parts of Mandya like Melkote, Nagamangala and Maddur, farmer bodies like KRRS and Sarvodaya Karnataka Party thrive. Neither the KRRS nor the SKP are aligned with the Congress but provide issue-based support to the government of the day.

This is a Vokkaliga stronghold but the Congress was not able to penetrate this region on caste basis. The BJP tried to circumvent caste and campaigned on the basis of issues like farming, water security, incentives and overall religious sentiments. This region saw top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda visiting.

Despite the Congress doing well in Mysore in terms of results, the BJP has increased its vote share. This means the erosion in the JDS vote has benefited the BJP.

Tamils can be said to have played a role in the Congress victory. The DMK and the AIADMK that often take the Tamil vote did not put up candidates. And Tamils voted en masse for the Congress. It is another matter that former IPS officer and president of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, K Annamalai, campaigned in the Bengaluru region multiple times. According to the Tamil Sangam of Bengaluru, there are about 1.1 lakh Tamil voters in three Bangalore constituencies and in Kolar and Mulabagilu constituencies.

All over Karnataka in about 72 constituencies the Muslim vote played a significant role. The community ensured their vote wasn’t wasted or split and helped to ensure the defeat of the BJP. “In about 72 constituencies, the Congress won purely because of our vote. We, as a community, have given a lot to the Congress. Now it’s time we get something in return. We want a Muslim deputy chief minister and five ministers with good portfolios like Home, Revenue and Education etc. It’s the responsibility of the Congress to thank us for this. We held an emergency meeting in the Sunni Ulma board office to ensure these are implemented,” Karnataka Wàqf Board chairman Shafi Sadi said.

Tamils can be said to have played a role in the Congress victory. The DMK and the AIADMK that often take the Tamil vote did not put up candidates. And Tamils voted en masse for the Congress

Meanwhile in Tamil Nadu, the parties, though pan-State, did have their region-specific bases even if during elections the entire state seemed to vote one way or the other. Those sub-regional bases are showing up in the results now.

The DMK historically grew first in the Cauvery delta and in northern Tamil Nadu. The Congress was the bigger party in the other regions including the south and the west. The AIADMK, though born from the DMK, grew to take the nationalist, non-Dravidianist vote in the west and the south.

Also Read: TN BJP wants Modi to contest from state: Annamalai

Today, the BJP is vying for these same votes in alliance with the AIADMK that showed that despite the drubbing in the 2021 elections, its base saved it from ignominy in the west though the south didn’t return the favour more because of the fear of the dominant caste group in the west dominating the entire party through Edappadi Palaniswami. Going forward, these complex interplays may well make Tamil Nadu more Karnataka like.

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