Karnataka Elections: Unpacking the Dalit, Tribal and Muslim Vote

The election results clearly show these efforts to consolidate the votes of oppressed communities against the BJP have been successful.

Karnataka elections

The Karnataka Assembly Elections 2023 saw the Congress party saw the Congress party gaining an unprecedented majority of 136 seats, the first time that such a lead has been given to any party in Karnataka since 1989.

While the BJP draws it’s main support from the upper columns of the societal pyramid. Their strategy includes absolute consolidation of the top half and fragmentation of the bottom half of the pyramid. Those campaigning against the BJP have then stressed on the importance of consolidating the masses that comprise the lower sections of the societal pyramid.

The election results clearly show these efforts to consolidate the votes of oppressed communities against the BJP have been successful. The Kuruba votes in Karnataka has increased by 4 percent, OBC votes have increased by 5 percent, and Muslim votes by 10 percent. In all cases, these communities have overwhelmingly voted for Congress.

The breakdown of the votes are as follows:

SC Vote

Through a breakdown of the constituencies based on the proportion of SC voters in each constituency, one is able to pay attention to constituencies that are not reserved but have a significant a SC population. A remarkable change in SC voting is visible in constituencies with 10-25% SC population.

Constituencies with 10-15% Covering SC population cover 50 seats of which 12 were won by BJP, 30 by Congress, and 7 by JDS. This is a complete flip from 2018 where BJP won 23 seats, Congress won 16 seats and JDS won 10 seats. This election, BJP seats in these constituencies have fallen by almost half while congress seats have almost doubled. 1 seat was won by others.

Similarly, in constituencies with 15-20% (covering 63 seats) SC population, BJP seats have fallen by nearly half; from 27 seats in 2018 to 15 seats in 2023. Meanwhile, Congress seats have close to doubled from 25 in 2018 to 42 in 2023. JDS seats have also doubled from 5 in 2018 to 11 in 2023. 1 seat was won by others.

For those with 20-25% SC population (covering 44 seats), BJP seats have yet again fallen by half from 17 in 2018 to 8 in 2023. Congress seats have doubled from 15 in 2018 to 29 in 2023. JDS seats have fallen from 12 in 2018 to 5 in 2023. 2 seats were won by others.

While the BJP vote share has remained more or less the same, the Congress vote share has increased by 5% on an average. There is an almost absolute relationship between the SC population in a constituency and the BJP vote share. With every 5% increase of SC population in a constituency, the BJP votes go down by 5%.

Karnataka’s SC population largely consists of Madigas or left-Dalits, Holeyas or right-Dalits and ‘Touchable Dalits’ such as the Lambanis and Banjaras.

In April, the ruling BJP government increased SC reservation from 15% to 17% and decided to divide the SC reservation internally, giving 6% sub-caste reservation for Madigas, 5.5% for Holeyas and 4.5% for the Touchable Dalits, which includes Banjaras, Lambanis, Korma and Korchas. Earlier, the Banjara reservation was 10% so the decision sparked widespread protests from the community. For this reason, Lambanis and Banjaras seem to have gone with Congress this time around.7

The Madigas, historically known to have supported the BJP, have now moved to Congress despite the BJP government’s inclusion of 6% internal reservation for Madigas. This may be due to the Congress’ announcement prior to this move that they would support the implementation of the AJ Sadashiva Commission Report which suggested substantial sub-caste reservation for Madigas, who are considered more backward than Holeyas and Lambanis. The Congress has also promised upping the reservation cutoff to 75% through inclusion into the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, as previoiusly done in Tamil Nadu.

Holeyas comprise a strong base for Congress, and All India Congress Committee (AICC) President Mallikarjun Kharge hails from the Holeya community. The Congress retained this base in this election as well.

ST Vote

The Congress won 14 out of the 15 seats reserved for STs and JDS won the final seat. In a remarkable turn of events, the 6 seats that BJP had won in this category from 2018 have all gone to the Congress in this election.

For districts with ST population between 10-20% (40 seats), BJP has gone from 17 seats in 2018 to 6 seats in 2023. Congress seats have nearly doubled with with 15 seats in 2018 and 28 seats in 2023. JDS seats have fallen from 7 in 2018 to 3 in 2023. This time, 3 seats were won by other parties. In these constituencies, the congress vote share has increased by 9% while the BJP vote share has dropped by 2-3%.

Out of those with 20% ST population, BJP has won zero seats this election. Congress has won 9 of the 10 seats and JDS won 1 seat. Last election, BJP won 4 seats and Congress won 5 seats. In these constituencies, the congress vote share has increased by 10% while the BJP vote share has dropped by 4%.

In Chittradurga, Bellary, Raichur and other parts of Central Karnataka, the ST communities has historically supported the BJP, particularly in the 2018 elections. However, this has changed dramatically this year. In Chittradurga, for example, the BJP had won 5 seats in 2018 and Congress had won 1 seat. However, this year has seen a reversal with BJP winning 1 seat and Congress winning 5 seats.

Muslim Vote

In constituencies with 30% or above Muslim population, covering a total of 10 seats, the number of seats per party has remained exactly the same with 1 seat to BJP, 9 to Congress and 0 to JDS. However, the BJP vote share has reduced by 4% from 2018 and JDS vote share has increased by 2%. The Congress vote share remains the same.

This is peculiar to Karnataka since in other states like Bihar, as the Muslim population increases, the BJP vote also increases. This is the logic of polarisation wherein the non-Muslim communities in these constituencies vote against the Muslim candidates.

Though this polarisation is not visible in the constituencies with 30% or above Muslim population, it is visible in the constituencies with 20-30% Muslims. Here, the BJP and Congress votes are almost split in the middle, with BJP winning 9 seats with a 43% vote share and Congress winning 7 seats with a 42% vote share. All over the country, Muslim representation has gone down due to this precise process; parties have stopped giving a ticket to Muslim candidates in fear that the non-Muslim community will become polarised against the Muslim candidate.

9 out of 15 Muslim candidates fielded by the Congress have won the election this time around, while none of the 22 fielded by the JDS were successful. In 2018, 5 out of the 7 Muslim candidates who won were from the Congress, while two were from the JDS.

In all constituencies with a sizeable Muslim population, one can see an increase in the Congress vote share and a drop in the JDS vote share. It is clear that the Muslim votes, nearly 13% of the electorate have consolidated in favour of Congress. This may be due to the Congress party’s promise to restore the 4% reservations for Muslims under the OBC category and ban organisations like the Bajrang Dal. It could also be fueled by fears that the JDS may align with the BJP.

Read Also: Karnataka: Impact Of Bharat Jodo Vs. Modi Rallies


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June 2024


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