Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has taken everyone by surprise by reaching out to the Lingayat community in an unprecedented manner ahead of the May 10 Assembly elections in Karnataka. However, the question in political circles often asked is, whether he will be able to tilt the Lingayat vote bank towards the Congress and bring it to power?
Why so much of emphasis is laid on his outreach? Why is the BJP stung by his outreach and charges by Lingayat leaders former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi? Why is Union Home Minister Amit Shah, other national leaders Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan reaching out to even towns to ensure the BJP sails through these polls?
Speaking to IANS, B. Samilulla, a senior journalist and political analyst, explained that it is all about getting a 5 per cent vote swing for the Congress in Karnataka.
"In the last Assembly elections, Congress got a 38 per cent vote share. Although the BJP got 36 per cent of votes, it emerged as the single largest party by winning more seats. The JD (S) had got 18 per cent of votes. The national parties which create a new vote bank are going to win.
"The approximate swing the Congress is looking at is 5 per cent of votes. For that, the party will have to get new votes.
"With developments surrounding the exit of Lingayat leaders from the BJP, Congress is expecting a swing of 3 per cent of Lingayat votes and 2 per cent of Vokkaligas votes. If Congress manages this, it will have a simple majority," he told IANS.
Knowing this well, Rahul Gandhi's visit to Kudala Sangama, where the samadhi of the 12th century reformer Basavanna is located, is planned. Shettar had started voicing out that Lingayats are snubbed in BJP at the same time and his visit assumes significance in this backdrop.
Rahul Gandhi's scathing attacks on the BJP and claims that its ideologies were just opposite to Basavanna are aimed at achieving a the 5 per cent vote swing to Congress, according to party sources.
Congress insiders have also said that the Union Home Minister, BJP National President J.P. Nadda and other Central leaders are reaching out people in towns in the corners of the state to prevent the Congress from having the extra vote swing.
The saffron party is targeting Shettar and forcing him to focus on his constituency is also for the same reason.
Samiulla further explained that the BJP is facing an anti-incumbency wave and the caste factor won't work out in its favour.
Suryamukund Raj, Congress Legal Cell Secretary, told IANS that the outreach efforts by Rahul Gandhi will pull progressive people in the Lingayat community towards Congress.
The community by and large is with former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa till now, but the 5 per cent vote swing could be achieved in the state easily, Raj notes.
"More than 20 seats in the last Assembly elections were lost by a margin of 2,500 to 3,000 votes, especially in the Kalyana Karnataka region. This time, Congress candidates will emerge victorious. Mining baron turned politician Janardhana Reddy's factor will also work against BJP," he added.