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The epicentre of this Vokkaliga consolidation against Siddaramaiah is Chamundeshwari — his own assembly constituency in Mysuru district. Not wanting to be pulled down by the Vokkaliga tide, Siddaramaiah is exploring other political options: One, consolidate the non-Vokkaliga votes in Chamundeshwari and two, contest from another safe seat in North Karnataka.
The big question though is why Vokkaligas (a dominant caste of South Karnataka which forms around 8% of the state’s population) are against Siddaramaiah?
“It is because Siddaramaiah’s words and deeds has jolted the community. Vokkaliga consolidation is a new phenomenon happening in this election,” said political analyst Muzaffar H Assadi. Although several factors are at play, one reason for the anti-Siddaramaiah sentiment is his call to end the political hegemony of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. The JD(S) supremo is one of the most respected leaders of the community.
“The JD(S) has used Siddaramaiah’s political call to consolidate the Vokkaliga votebank,” Assadi said. “Anyone who is opposed to Deve Gowda and (his son) Kumaraswamy are dubbed adversaries of Vokkaligas. So Vokkaligas are coming together to teach Siddaramaiah a lesson.”
However, the hostility has been gradually building up ever since Siddaramaiah was made chief minister. Political dynamics in the rural setup changed after Siddaramaiah covertly began politically empowering members from his Kuruba community.
“Political disruptions were engineered to strip Vokkaliga leaders of power in cooperative societies and panchayat raj institutions,” BJP spokesperson A H Anand said.
Changes in the reservation matrix in the last five years ensured more Kuruba community members came onboard the managements of cooperative societies, agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs), taluk and zilla panchayats, primary land development banks and district cooperative banks. “While Vokkaligas fought elections and won, the Siddaramaiah government paradropped Kuruba community members through official nominations,” said a revenue official in Mandya district.
Vokkaligas also feel they have been sidelined because of Siddaramaiah’s vindictive politics. “Be it IAS or KAS, not a single Vokkaliga officer was given a good executive posting in old Mysuru districts during Siddaramaiah’s tenure. On the other hand, members from the Kuruba community were promoted and placed in coveted posts in various levels of administration. Casteism worsened in the bureaucracy during Siddaramaiah’s regime,” a recently retired IAS officer said. “The CM’s body language towards Vokkaliga officers was always different, smacking of arrogance.”
Siddaramaiah’s stance with regard to reservation in promotions for government officials also angered Vokkaliga officials. “Siddaramaiah and his people made it clear that they wanted to control all instruments of power,” the retired officer said. “In fact, the promotion list of KAS officers (who would be given IAS) was kept on hold for more than a year as two officials from the Kuruba community had to be accommodated. On promotion, a Kuruba KAS community officer was made the deputy commissioner of Bengaluru Urban district. It was the same with IPS officers.”