How BJP plunged Karnataka into cesspool of caste

“Welcome to the Vidhana Soudha.  If you are a Lingayat, press 1. If your are a Gowda , press 2. If you are a  Kuruba, press 3. If you are a Idiga, press 4. If  you are  a Dalit, press 5. If you are a Muslim, press 6. If you are a Christian, press 7. If you are none of these, disconnect and join the queue for Dharma Darshana of the Chief Minister and take your chance. Thanks for calling.”

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: At the moment, this is just an SMS doing the rounds but don’t be surprised if you were to actually hear this message in the days to come, as the process of political churning set in motion by the present BJP dispensation, is taken to its logical conclusion.

At the moment, the polarisation of castes, which is what this political churning amounts to, remains confined to the internal struggle for power within the ruling party. Its success or failure could spur other parties to follow suit, leaving Karnataka vying with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

What is however special to the political churning in Karnataka is that the process has been initiated by a national party like the BJP, while in other States it has generally been the handiwork of regional parties at the cost of the Congress or BJP.


The author of the ongoing process in Karnataka is, of course, none other than the disgruntled former chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, who is desperate to regain political primacy in the State after he was forced to quit office in the wake of his indictment by the Lokayukta in the illegal mining and other scams.

But it has also got an indirect endorsement from the BJP’s bosses in New Delhi, who have been singularly helpless in curbing the political intransigence of the former CM, because of the imperative necessity of keeping the first saffron government south of Vindhyas in office, by hook or by crook.

It was Yediyurappa who started overtly playing the Lingayat card although the chief minister’s post in the State has been held by Lingayat politicians before him. It is a mystery what prompted Yediyurappa at the pinnacle of his popularity to play the caste card card, which has reduced him from a mass leader to the leader of a single caste.

For years, if not decades, Yediyurappa had painted himself as a leader of all classes and castes. He rose through dint of sheer hard work and sustained organisational strength.

Once he took over as the Chief Minister in 2008, he started portraying himself as the unquestioned political leader of the Lingayats, a prominent community which has a pan-Karnataka presence, with the northern half of the State being the sheet anchor of the support.

Yediyurappa started courting the religious heads among the community and was liberal in doling grants to the institutions managed by them.

If the move was aimed at providing himself with a shield to fight his political battle, it obviously failed.

For sure, the swamijis were at the forefront whenever his throne was in trouble, but it was hardly of avail since he could not prevent his ouster 11 months ago despite the campaigning by the lingayat swamijis. As a matter of fact, the swamijis got their  reputation tarnished by the  manner in which they winked at corruption.

Furthermore, their attempts to save a government steeped in corruption and a bunch of ministers neck deep in it merely because they happened to be Lingayats made them a laughing stock in public.


The caste politics unleashed by Yediyurappa was on full display during the formation of the third BJP ministry headed by Jagadish Shettar. The Vokkaligas suddenly discovered that D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was facing the heat, was a fellow Vokkaliga and rallied around him.

Though they could not save DVS’s chair, they gave enough hints that they are also a force to be reckoned with in Karnataka politics.

It was not without insignificant that the Deve Gowda-Kumaraswamy duo which was vocal in the criticism of the Yediyurappa government had suddenly grown soft during Sadananda Gowda’s 11-month regime. The transformation was attributed widely to the Vokkalinga connection.

The post of Chief Minister having gone to Shettar, a Lingayat, the two other powerful castes insisted and succeeded in creating specially two posts of the deputy chief ministers for the first time in Karnataka politics, and these went to K.S. Eswarappa (Kuruba) and R. Ashok (Vokkaliga).

It is expected that the post of the party president, which may be vacated by Eswarappa on his induction into the cabinet, is likely to go to “others” category.

To make the power sharing arrangement more authentic, both Eswarappa and Ashok were specifically sworn as the deputy CMs, even though the Constitution does not recognize such a political office. Normally aspirants are sworn in as a minister and later get designated as the deputy CM. Whether this will be a precedent for ministry-making exercises in future remains to be seen.


The pattern of distribution of portfolios in the BJP-run government has been done according to the same formula, with the powerful caste denominations walking away with plum portfolios while the insignificant groups have been forced to accept minor and less-important ones.

Ironically, there was no Lingayat politician who could command the allegiance of Lingayats and emerge as their political voice. In fact, it was not any Lingayat politician but a Bramhin, the late Ramakrishna Hegde, who commanded the respect and trust of Lingayats as a whole in general and in northern half of the state in particular.

Hegde chose to deny himself what would have been a fresh lease of life for his political career when he resisted the pressure by his followers in the new political outfit the United Janata Dal to take over as the CM in place of J.H Patel, who was reigning then.

This he did because he did not want to hurt Lingayat sentiments.

The BJP’s continued drought of political support in the 1990s came as a byproduct of the electoral tie-up between the BJP and the JDU to fight the Congress. Hedge’s demise created a political vacuum and the BJP and Yediyurappa moved in to fit the  bill.

This is what enabled Yediyurappa to claim as a  lingayat leader.

But its continued Lingayat fixation coupled with Yediyurappa’s narcissistic tendencies  have contributed substantially to the precipitous fall of Yediyurappa from political grace.

When the BJP high command forced Yediyurappa to quit , his ego was badly hurt. He could not countenance his exit from power. Since then he has been ranting and raving for the restoration of his own political hegemony and has been bemoaning the loss of political primacy for Lingayats.

He has only a single-point agenda: he should have political power either by de jure or de facto manner.

If he cannot get power on his own directly, he must enjoy it through proxy. This was the rationale behind his move to get his own nominee Sadananda Gowda installed as his successor.

Gowda, a low profile functionary, happened to be one his confidants and a safe bet to be trusted unlike his other confidant Shettar, a fellow Lingayat, who had strayed away from his path. This, he achieved after virtually brow beating the high command for the selection of successor through voting.

But he got wary of Gowda soon, as the latter showed signs of moving out of his orbit.

Result: Yediyurappa himself launched a virulent campaign to bring down the man he had put in office sometime ago. He blackmailed the high command to have his way again. And this time Yediyurappa chose to bring back Shettar back into the fold to act as his proxy.

In his overt zeal to get back power, Yediyurappa has introduced in Karnataka politics, the canker of caste politics, which is expected to change the political scenario altogether in the days to come.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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19 Responses to “How BJP plunged Karnataka into cesspool of caste”

  1. Manoj Abraham Says:

    Remember R.K.Naryan’s story of a Minister without a portfolio. Contrary to that Mr. Sadanand Gowda had to hold 21 portfolios! All because of the political scenario ravaged by power hungry politicians wielding caste cards. Cry my beloved Karnataka.

  2. Suresh Panje Says:

    The factor of religion and caste is not only a malady affecting Karnataka but the entire nation. Instead of the term SECULAR in our Constitution (ushered by the late Indira Gandhi), the powers-that-be in New Delhi ought to have ratified the word RATIONAL. Fine, any society or nation ought to be proud of its own philosophy and cultural heritage but there is no need for identifying these with theology, faith and ethnic aspects.
    As such the root cause lies with politicians of all hues and to root out this evil what we need is a cultural revolution that Mao Tse Tung heralded in China. Of course, conservative minded rightists and capitalists would differ with me by citing the destructive approach adapted by tribal ultras and marginal or landless farmers in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar. However, that is the sole recourse to rewrite the history of India. And what we need is a tall revolutionary figure in the calibre of Mao and Ho Chi Minh.
    Suresh Panje
    New Delhi

  3. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    Caste politics is not new in Karnataka. Each party has a share of the blame here. If BJP loses in the next election, Congress/JD(S) will no doubt ensure these “wrongs” are righted. And so the cycle continues.

  4. Emulove Says:

    Not only cessfool of caste, they are turning Karnataka into Afghanistan

  5. Freewill Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. There is a very negative mood of castiesm in the society these days. Earlier it was more closeted but equally relevant. Just recently, I asked one of my participants to speak on any given topic, he started off by praising yeddy and made it political, that was ok, but later he started making casteist remarks against other communities! This happened in an MNC! These emotions of hatred have been irked by dominance and of course yeddy himself. Vote this bjp out of power, everything will come back to normalcy. Otherwise, this bjp will convert this state into bihar or up.

  6. Anonymous Guy Says:

    BJP: Bring back the worst of Hinduism in Karnataka. What else to expect as long as the RSS is controlled by a cunning minority who want to control the majority?

  7. kris Says:

    Who reads MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN’s columns? Only Churumuri I guess, and by default, us. Please save us from these who try to rewrite history before it is history.

  8. Deepak Says:

    No doubt that under BSY we saw new low levels of casteism, but Matihalli also takes BJP baiting to new low levels. Who started casteism in Karnataka? Obviously, it is Congress and JDS. Author conveniently ignores that!!

  9. surendra nath misra Says:

    Agree with Dipak.Did this person wake up after 60 years.I wonder how old is she, anyway.Going by her sense of karnataka’s political history she can’t be more than 20.

  10. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Mathihalli Mohan appears as Justice Santhosh Hegde to me! Sure there was no casteism during the time of Congress and JDS! It is BJP all the way in casteism!

  11. Sanjeeva Says:

    MMM Sir, Could you oplease enlighten us as to what is the situation in other states and other parties?

  12. Srikanta Says:

    In hindsight; BJP conned India with Ram Temple issue after observing how people were fascinated by the Ramayana Serial on TV. They have no such help this time around, may be Satyameva Jayathe.

  13. Srikanta Says:

    I just made a trip to Mysore though beautiful, I have these observation, it is hotter than Bangalore, Many area are spacious and less people. Less traffic and pollution.

    But the vegetation is not as dense as Bangalore, Bangalore is cooler, and more dense foliage in pockets.

    The key observation is Mysore is as is threee decades ago, you see very little renovation, new thinigs except fro Mysore MAll etc. People are poor and dont bother renovatiing. Plenty of odd ball colorfull houses.

    Some how I am not affected by much Bangalore pollution occasionally mostly. I like Bangalore better.

  14. dr ramesh Says:

    Super article gurugale,
    Caste always played a very important role in karnataka politics but it was in the form of an undercurrent, but bjp gave it clear, definite shape and legitimacy.
    Jd s showing bullish trend, bjp , Cong –entered a long term bearish trend.

  15. asha Says:

    MMM really has selective amnesia…he does not remember anything about the casteist politics that was started during Neechlingappas time and continued ever since…but you cannot mention that as Neechlingappa was congressman and so were the other politicians who ruled the state….

  16. parijataka Says:

    Karnataka IMHO is one of the few states that has low level of casteism compared to other states. BJP as well as Congi are supported by a cross section of society whereas JD(S) is mainly supported by one community in southern districts. Though Congress these days seems more a party of religious minorities lately.

    Author seems to be biased and wanting to show BJP in poor light obviously.

  17. anamika Says:

    We indians are very much casteist and racist. With common occurences like mangalore we are cultureless as well.
    Hoping somehow youngsters are not indoctrinated with religion which is the basis of the above issues.

  18. dr.h.n.patwari Says:

    The real chaal,charitar and chehra of sangh parivar in Karnatka stands thoroughly exposed.!

  19. PRASAD Says:

    Biased article,… need to think a lot before holding a pen to write..Madam I dont know what bsy has done to this lady for writing like this.. Stop writing like this…

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