The BJP is aggressively courting these communities ahead of parliamentary elections due in about six months. The two main communities are estimated to make up about a quarter of the state’s population.
The party strategically chose Ballari to host its ST convention as a prominent community leader, Transport Minister B Sriramulu hails from the district. The government drastically increased the ST quota from 4% to 7% due to Sriramulu’s persistent demand, and the BJP regime’s move helped him project himself as the community’s biggest political figure.
The government order, notified last month, also increased the SC quota from 2% to 17%.
Sriramulu belongs to the dominant Valmiki sub-sect, the STs, and political observers say Valmiki voters are a deciding factor in about 40 assembly seats. Unlike SC voters, who are mostly scattered across the state, Valmikis are concentrated in about 30 assembly seats, they say. The BJP hopes the recent increase in the ST quota will translate into votes, adding several assembly seats to its kitty as the opposition Congress tries to meet a tough challenge.
Karnataka has 224 assembly seats and the BJP was only able to form the government in 2019 after 17 Congress MPs and JD(S) switched sides. Recognizing this, the BJP is reaching out to all major communities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil a 108ft statue of Kempe Gowda, the architect of Bengaluru, at the international airport on November 11. The party is campaigning extensively around this event, hoping to take advantage of Vokkaliga’s votes. The community is the second largest in Karnataka after Lingayats.
On Monday, Bommai and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa will take over the Jan Sankalp Yatra, the BJP launched from Raichur last month, to counter the Congress party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by its leader Rahul Gandhi.
The two leaders have planned the yatra to cover 54 assembly segments, and their three-day tour starting Monday will cover
Udupi, Gadag, Haveri and Belagavi districts. The yatra will continue until the end of December. The Jan Sankalp Yatra had received a good response from voters, and it was an indication of the BJP’s victory in the assembly elections, Bommai said.