While there is still more than a year left before the assembly elections, BJP seemingly wanting to make an early start.

BJPs backward classes rally is a show of strength but will it pay off
news Ekta Convention Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 18:59

After months of squabbling, the BJP has not just presented a united face, but also turned its backward classes rally into a show of strength, with its national president Amit Shah turning up for the event.

On Sunday morning, several thousand people gathered at the convention organised by the Karnataka BJP’s OBC Morcha. The range of leaders gathered was impressive. 

In his speech, which was live telecast by the BJP, BS Yeddyurappa invoked several people, who were icons of their own times, and continue to influence people. Starting with Basavanna, who founded the Lingayat community with his anti-caste philosophy, MK Gandhi, two-time chief minister Devaraj Urs, BR Ambedkar, Yeddyurappa called them the “mahan rashtra nayaks” of the country. Devaraj Urs, was incidentally, of the Congress party and sided with Indira Gandhi during the emergency.

Yeddyurappa also castigated the Congress for its criticism of demonetisation. “Why is Siddaramaiah supporting Akrosha Diwas without doing anything to alleviate the effects of the drought?”

He took Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to task, asking what he had done for the backward classes communities. He said that he could present a “list of welfare measures” that the chief ministers of the previous BJP government, including himself, had undertaken for OBCs.

The convention comes nearly two months after Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council KS Eshwarappa had his own show of strength in Haveri. On October 1, he went ahead with a convention of the backward classes under the banner of the recently revived Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, even though it was strongly opposed by its party president BS Yeddyurappa. Eshwarappa sought to project himself as a counter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA formula, minus the minorities. The Sangolli Rayanna Brigade, named after the army commander of Chennamma, the Rani of Kittur, is supposed to a mobilization of the backward classes and Dalits (HINDA).

Although it is still nearly two years to the next assembly elections, political churning is afoot, with the BJP seemingly wanting to make an early start. 

Although there has been friction between Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa over the floating of the Rayanna Brigade, the question on everybody’s mind is whether the efforts to woo backward classes communities will pay off. 

Political analyst Muzaffar Assadi says that the BJP’s efforts might be an exercise in futility. Stating that the backward classes are not a homogenous group, he pointed out that the bigger chunk of them – the Kurubas – supported the Congress.

“Even if they do mobilise large number of people at the convention, it is highly doubtful whether it would translate in to votes,” said Muzaffar. 

According to leaked reports from the caste census conducted by the Congress government in 2015, over 37% of Karnataka’s population belongs to OBC communities. 

Though the community itself is heterogeneous in nature, it is could play a key role in getting any party to win the elections. 

Muzaffar says that even if BJP got some support from a few OBC community, a large share of Kuruba, Muslim and Dalit votes will remain with the Congress. This put together comes to over 20% of the vote share. 

In all this time, he says that the BJP’s mainstay to obtain votes has been the LI-BRA formula. LI-BRA is an acronym for Lingayat and Brahmin. While the former are concentrated in parts of northern Karnataka, the latter are present in significant numbers in the Malnad region. 

“Apart from LIBRA, there is also the Karnataka’s Hindutva lab – Udupi and Dakshina Kannada region where communal activities have increased over the last few years,” he said.

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