The verdict in the Karnataka state assembly elections has been on the expected lines as the voting in various regions of the state has been on the casteist pattern. The gamble of recommending an independent religion status to the Lingayat community has backfired against former chief minister Siddaramaiah and the Congress Party as the Lingayat community by and large has firmly stood behind BJP strongman BYS Yediyurappa who belongs to this community.
Similarly, the other prominent caste in Karnataka, the Vokkaliga, has also stood firmly behind their community leaders former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and his son former chief minister HD Kumarswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular). Siddaramaiah who contested from two seats lost miserably in his traditional Chamundeshwari seat due to caste factors but managed to scrape through with just 1,696 votes from Badami where voters of his Kuruba (shepherd) community came to his rescue.
The Karnataka poll verdict is the latest example of the further consolidation of various caste vote banks in the country. In Bihar polls, the rallying of their respective communities behind their leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and others had led to the victory of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United) and defeat of the NDA led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
Nowadays, any political leader or party succeeding in wooing members of the particular communities is bound to win the elections. This arithmetic is expected to work all over the country in the state and forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Consolidation of various castes as vote banks has threatened the poll prospects of other minority communities who do not stand a chance of getting elected either to the state assemblies or Parliament in such a scenario. The situation has been further compounded with the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre and most states in the country, having a policy not to nominate any member of the Muslim, Christian or other religious minorities as a candidate in any elections.
There are exceptions like in Goa, Kerala or north eastern states where the Christian population is dominant.
In Karnataka, the population of Muslims is 13 per cent but in keeping with its unwritten policy, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate in any of the 224 seats in the state.
The Congress, on the other hand, fielded 17 Muslim candidates and the Janata Dal (Secular) fielded eight Muslim candidates. Seven Muslim candidates, all nominated by the Congress, have now been elected to the Karnataka assembly.
Karnataka also has a sizeable population of Christian community in some areas. Joachiam Alva, father-in-law of former Union minister Margaret Alva, was elected to the Lok Sabha from North Canara for three terms in the post-independence era.
Congress leader and former Union minister Oscar Fernandes was elected to the Lok Sabha for six terms from Udipi constituency. In the fast changing socio-political scenario, members of such minuscule religious community are unlikely to get nominated as candidates, let alone get elected.
In Maharashtra too, the BJP and the Shiv Sena had not fielded members of any minorities for state or parliamentary elections. As both these parties share power in the state, there is not a single member of the minority in the state ministry. This is indeed a sorry state of affairs in Maharashtra which claims to be socially the most forward state in the country.
The deliberate marginalisation of religious minorities in the country calls for serious introspection by all stakeholders as this trend poses a threat to the secular fabric of the