In Mandya, a district in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, the political divide among Vokkaligas, the dominant community, is threatening the stronghold of the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)], a regional political party in the state.
The Vokkaligas, who account for around 15% of Karnataka’s population, have been a key support base for the JD(S). However, in recent years, the community has witnessed a division, with one faction aligning with the JD(S) and the other with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party at the national level.
The divide among the Vokkaligas has become more pronounced in Mandya, where the JD(S) has won every election since 2004. The district is known to be the bastion of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his family, who are Vokkaligas themselves.
In the 2018 state assembly elections, the JD(S) won 4 out of 7 seats in the Mandya district, with the remaining seats going to the Congress, its coalition partner at the time. However, in the 2019 national elections, the JD(S) suffered a major setback, winning only one of the eight parliamentary seats in the state, including none in Mandya.
The political divide among the Vokkaligas has become more pronounced in recent months, with the BJP trying to consolidate its base in the community. This has led to a number of senior JD(S) leaders defecting to the BJP, including Mandya MP Sumalatha Ambareesh, who won the 2019 national elections as an independent candidate but later joined the BJP.
The BJP’s attempts to woo the Vokkaligas have also been helped by the factionalism within the JD(S). The party has been plagued by infighting in recent years, with Deve Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy and his brother H.D. Revanna vying for control of the party.
The infighting has also led to a split in the party’s Vokkaliga vote bank, with some members supporting Kumaraswamy and others supporting Revanna.
The upcoming state assembly elections in Karnataka, scheduled for 2023, are likely to see a fierce battle for Mandya, with the BJP hoping to make inroads into the JD(S)’s traditional vote bank. The JD(S), on the other hand, will be hoping to retain its hold on the district and consolidate its position in the state.
In conclusion, the political divide among the Vokkaligas in Mandya has created a new challenge for the JD(S), which has been trying to retain its stronghold in the district. The upcoming state assembly elections will be a litmus test for the party, as it tries to counter the BJP’s attempts to consolidate its base in the community.