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Karnataka Elections: Can Telugu factor turn the tide?

May 9, 2018

The impact of Telugu speaking community on Karnataka Elections 2018

Karnataka is an amalgamation of several distinct cultural and linguistic identities co-existing and respecting each others’ confinement. There is a substantial number of Telugu speaking community in the state largely confined to the Hyderabad Karnataka region and the urban conglomeration of Bengaluru. According to the Census of 2001, the Telugu speaking faction is the third largest community in the state comprising more than 7% of Karnataka’s total population. They do hold the key in some of the constituencies, as their sizeable population looks to have significant impact on the electoral mandate of Karnataka State Assembly elections. The leaders of Telugu speaking states mainly Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are watchful of the developments occurring in Karnataka. Both the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are analysing the opportunity of a Third-Front government in the next year’s Lok Sabha elections, as they look to project themselves as the leader of the Front.

Days away from the polling for Assembly elections in Karnataka, the political parties and the electorates are in a limbo, as majority of the pollsters have predicted a fractured mandate and the possibility of a hung assembly. Politicians are battling it out amongst themselves, the stakes are high for one the most important state elections before the next year’s General elections. The results of the fiercely contested election battle in Karnataka can largely be affected by the swing of 1 to 2% of the votes. In the last two state assembly elections, there were nearly 40 to 60 seats where the fate of the candidates was decided by 5000 measly votes. A similar situation is expected in a three-way battle between BJP-Congress-JD(S) this time around, with no particular party being favored, thus, these 7% Telugu votes can certainly play an important role in deciding the outcome of the electoral mandate.

Telugu is the third most spoken language in Karnataka after Kannada and Urdu, while it is also the third largest cultural group in the state. The close proximity of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has a strong influence on the Telugu community in Karnataka and Telugus have a considerable population in at least 12 districts, including the Hyderabad Karnataka region. With no significant swing in favor of a particular party, it will be really important to secure the votes of the sizeable Telugu population of the state, as the victory might come with the narrowest of margins.

The recent controversy surrounding the strained relations between TDP and BJP was due to failure of Modi government to provide Special Category Status to the state of Andhra Pradesh, as was promised by the party during the 2014 General Elections. The whole situation left a sour taste in the mouth of the leaders of TDP including the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, as TDP exited the NDA. Chandrababu Naidu called the Prime Minister insensitive to the needs of the Telugu community, and recently there have been messages circulating on the social media platforms asking the Telugu voters of Karnataka not to vote for the BJP. How much impact can the Telugu community have on the outcome of the electoral mandate on May 15?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.


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