Karnataka Election 2023: BJP's 'Brahmin push' may backfire as 'rebels' push back
With Brahmins constituting just 3 per cent of the population, the speculation of using Brahmin candidates to extend the voter base beyond Lingayat and Vokkaliga partisans has raised eyebrows
Jagadish Shettar, a former chief minister who deserted the BJP and joined the Congress, created a stir by blaming the BJP’s national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh and union minister Pralhad Joshi for his decision.
Joshi and Santhosh, both Brahmins and with roots in the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), were politically ambitious and wanted to weed out rivals, he alleged. The alleged ‘Brahmin push’ by the BJP was said to be a part of the RSS plan to extend the party’s base beyond the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas.
With Brahmins constituting just 3 per cent of the population (the last Brahmin chief ministers in the state were Ramakrishna Hegde and R. Gundu Rao in the 1980s), the speculation caused some consternation. Santhosh was forced to clarify and say, “I do not wish to be in the race.” Observers were quick to point out that he did not say he ‘is not in the race’. Joshi added to the suspense by declaring that the chief minister would be decided only after the election.
As for the overarching anti-incumbency strategy, Shah justified the ‘experiments’ with candidates and said that, with a strong leader at the helm (Modi), this was an opportune time for experiments and to give youngsters a chance.
Not everyone within the BJP is convinced about the timing, though. A.H. Vishwanath, who had defected to the BJP and helped B.S. Yediyurappa to form the BJP government in 2019, says, “The experiment is fine but has been done at the wrong time. BJP should have announced the changes six months ago.”
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BJP MLC and the Karnataka state unit’s general secretary Ravi Kumar, however, defends the decision as a “good experiment and executed after due planning”.
The BJP had carried out a similar experiment in Himachal Pradesh and narrowly lost due to rebellion, he concedes; but Karnataka is different and the party will win, he insists.
Rebels are another worrying factor for both contesting parties. While 16 BJP rebels continue to be in the fray, the number of Congress rebels is higher, at 18, with the Janata Dal (Secular) at 6, according to Ravi Kumar.