North-South divide not at play this year

By M.K. Ashoka

Bengaluru, Mar 26 (IANS): North Karnataka and south Karnataka regions are poles apart when it comes to development, infrastructure, education, irrigation and connectivity. South Karnataka districts enjoying proximity to state capital Bengaluru, have taken giant strides in terms of development while most of the districts in the northern region come in the list of aspirational districts.

More than 100 MLAs get elected from north Karnataka while south Karnataka elects over 80 MLAs.

The movement for unification of north and south was started by north Karnataka leadership and was reciprocated by south Karnataka rulers. Kengal Hanumanthaiah, then Chief Minister (1952-1956), facilitated the process of unification at the cost of his post. There is no issue of contention between the two regions. Both the regions have come together time and again to overthrow and challenge national political parties.

South Karnataka is dominated by 'Vokkaligas' and north Karnataka is dominated by 'Lingayats'. Both the communities took leadership roles to overthrow the Congress by formation the Janata Party in 1983. The Janata Party won two successive Assembly elections in 1983 and 1985.

Presently, north Karnataka firmly stands with BJP, whereas south Karnataka is a strong base of JD(S). The Lingayat community is standing behind BJP leader and former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. Now, when Yediyurappa is not the Chief Ministerial face in the state and the BJP is contesting the Assembly elections under collective leadership while seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fingers are crossed.

The Congress party, which is projecting state President D.K. Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga, as one of the Chief Ministerial candidates, is hoping to wrestle Lingayat vote bank. In the first list of 124 candidates, 32 tickets were allotted to Lingayats. These numbers are considered to be the highest in recent times.

The Congress' strategy is to tap the Lingayat vote bank as under the leadership of Veerendra Patil, a Lingayat leader from north Karnataka, it has won a whopping 179 seats in 1989 Assembly elections. However, after the "unceremonious exit" of Patil, the Lingayat vote bank slowly tilted towards Yediyurappa, who was projected as the Chief Ministerial candidate by the BJP. In 2008, BJP won 110 seats and came to power through operation "lotus".

Ashok Chandaragi, a noted activist from north Karnataka, explains that there is no issue of contention between north and south Karnataka regions. The reason for backwardness of north Karnataka is not because of negligence by south Karnataka politicians. It is because of the negligence of north Karnataka politicians.

The mindset of Karnataka voters is totally different from other states. "Language, issues of water dispute with neighbouring states, will never become a major issue in the elections here," he said.


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