Caste was always a factor during the Karnataka elections and this time around too it has played a major role. However the surprise was the tilt of the Lingayat vote bank in favour of the Congress which ended up winning 67 out of the 118 Lingayat dominated areas in the state.
The Congress will be pleased with this improvement since it had managed to win only 20 seats in the Lingayat dominated belts during 2008. This was largely because the BJP had projected B S Yeddyurappa as its leader and there was a major trend in favour of the party back then. The BJP however tried to counter the Yeddyurappa factor by appointing Jagadish Shettar also a Lingayat as its leader. However the Shettar magic clearly did not work as the votes were split three way in 2013 which ended up benefitting the Congress.
Yeddyurappa had visited every Lingayat mutt in the state and sought their support. He managed to pull it off at least in the Bombay-Karnataka region where the BJP suffered a massive defeat losing 30 seats. This is a region dominant with Lingayats. Neither did the BJP nor Yeddyurappa did not get this vote share from the Lingayats. Yeddyurappa was told by several Lingayat leaders that they would not vote for the BJP but would go with the Congress which has a better chance of coming to power. Although Yeddyurappa did not benefit directly from the Lingayats, he managed to take away the vote share of the BJP among this community.
For the Congress it is redemption. It had completely lost out to the 17 per cent vote share of the Lingayats ever since former Chief Minister Veerendra Patil was unceremoniously dropped on health ground by Rajiv Gandhi. Today the Lingayats have changed their stance and have gone with the Congress largely in all parts of the state. However there is also a silent push that is being to make Shamnur Shivashankarappa a Lingayat leader from the Congress the Chief Minister.
The Congress will no doubt give the Lingayats a very good representation as a reward, but the party will tilt more towards the Dalits, Other Backward Castes and the minorities. This is primarily because their vote bank has been dominated by the castes mentioned above. The Congress has gained most out from the votes from the Dalits and Other Backward castes and the choice of Chief Minister would automatically go to one of the leaders from these castes. Kharge a contender for the post is a Dalit while Siddaramaiah is a Kuruba falling under the OBC category. The Muslims too have voted for the Congress and they are most likely to have at least two ministers in the Cabinet rank from this community. Moreover the Congress will also keep in mind that the OBC-Muslim combination has worked well for the party in nearly 40 constituencies.
The Congress cannot however claim that it has managed to take the Vokkaliga vote bank. It has lost majorly in all Vokkaliga dominated belts to the Janatha Dal (S). The only place where it managed to pull of a win in a Vokkaliga dominated belt was at Mandya.