Do Lingayats blindly support the BJP en masse?

B.S. Yediyurappa has returned from the pristine sands of Mauritius to the urban jungle of Bangalore, only to say the most predictable thing with the most predictable scowl: that he will not, repeat not resign from the post of chief minister merely because some silly Lok Ayukta has shown his hand to be full of dirt and grease and slush.

With that, the Lok Ayukta, Justice Nitte Santosh Hedge, joins a long and continuing list of worthies whose efforts to show that the CM of a once-progressive State is himself upto no good, has come to nought. For the moment, of course.

How does Yediyurappa brazen it out time after time?

How does his party find him beyond reproach?

Indeed, how do the people forgive him so easily?

The hot money has been on “Lingayats”. Lingayats, so the conventional wisdom goes, were maha-miffed with the Congress for the kind of treated out to Lingayat chief ministers such as Veerendra Patil (who was unceremoniously given the marching orders by Rajiv Gandhi).

That the credit of winning over Lingayats to the BJP en bloc goes to Yediyurappa. That without their support (and that of the Brahmins), the BJP would have never come to power. That it is Yediyurappa who has turned Lingayats into a potent political force a la Vokkaligas. That the Lingayat mutts hold the key to the Lingayat voting mind.

In short, if he is thrown out, despite all this muck, the BJP will meet the same fate as the Congress. Etcetera.

Really?

James Manor of the school of south Asian study (SOAS) of the University of London, wrote these paragraphs in an article titled “The trouble with Yeddyurappa” in the Economic & Political Weekly three months ago:

“The chief minister often tells national leaders that his fellow Lingayats give the party an unassailable base. Those leaders, from northern and western India, do not understand that this is untrue. Lingayats account for only 15.3% of the State’s population as a survey by Sandeep Shastri (based on the third backward classes commission report of Chinnappa Reddy, 1990) points out.

“And even in areas where they are concentrated, many years have passed since they could influence other groups’ voting decisions. Devaraj Urs brought the non-dominant majority into play as a politically sophisticated force in the 1970s, and since then, caste hierarchies have lost much of their potency in rural areas.

“The BJP’s national leaders fail to recognise that when Lingayat chief ministers like S.R. Bommai after 1988 and Veerendra Patil in the early 1990s favoured their caste fellows excessively, as Yeddyurappa has done, the other groups have combined against them. Inclusive, diverse social coalitions have always been needed, since Urs, to win State elections.

“The national leaders also apparently fail to grasp that the BJP’s modest “success” in the recent panchayat elections—which Yeddyurappa has used to justify his continuance in power—actually entailed significant declines in the party’s vote share in several key sub-regions since the 2008 State election (at which the BJP failed to win a majority of seats).

“Most of those lost votes occurred among non-Lingayats, despite the BJP spending on the panchayat elections being much greater than that by rival parties. Crudely speaking, non-Lingayats have tended to combine in support of the Congress in most of northern Karnataka, and in support of the Janata Dal-Secular in most of southern Karnataka.”

Read the full article: The trouble with Yeddyurappa

Link via Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi

File photograph: Chief minister B.S.Yediyurappa at the 104th birth anniversary of former deputy prime minister  Babu Jagjivan Ram, at the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore in April (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Chetan Bhagat has some advice for Lingayats

Has the BJP lost all sense of shame in Karnataka?