Chief Ministers of Karnataka – Where They Came From and Their Reasons for Serving


As the countdown for the 2023 Assembly elections in Karnataka begins, the three key political parties – BJP, INC and JD (S) – have become busier in reviving their regional and caste strategies. With no clear sign of who will take the reins of power in the state this upcoming May, it is interesting to look back and deconstruct the history of Karnataka politics and the regions from where most of our Chief Ministers have come.

The first election in Karnataka was held in 1952. Going by the 71 years of electoral history, Old Mysore and Central Karnataka are the traditional epicentres of power in the state, having had chief ministers coming from the respective regions for 73% of the time. Of which, 29 years (41%) of the time came from Old Mysore region and 22.5 years (32%) came from Central Karnataka. In contrast, North Karnataka and Coastal Karnataka regions have held power for only 13% and 11% of the time respectively. The period of President’s rule from 1952 to 2023 collectively spans 2.33 years.

As for district-wise power spread, only 15 districts out of 31 have had a chief minister. Mysuru trumps the list for 12.67 years, and is followed by Shivamogga at 7.52 years and Chitradurga at 7.48 years. If the undivided Chitradurga district, which included Davangere, was taken into account, it would be in second place with 10.84 years.

It is interesting to note that the concentration of power within Old Mysore and Central Karnataka regions have grown even more over the past two and a half decades, with Old Mysore now having 53% of power share while Central Karnataka accounts for 37%. In the same period, these two regions accounted for 90% of power distribution.

It’s no surprise that Mysuru leads the list for chief ministers for it has been the pre-independence administrative headquarters, has socially prospered economically in the past few decades, and the Vokkaliga community dominates the region. Whereas Central Karnataka is home to the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community, who have held power for 86% of their reign.

However, it is interesting to note that Belagavi, the largest district with 18 Assembly constituencies, as well as Tumakuru with 10 Assembly constituencies, have never earned the chance to produce a chief minister. Even in the economically powerful Bengaluru city, with 28 constituencies, no one was able to make the mark as a pan-Karnataka leader.

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It is hard to predict whether the ‘power’ districts will continue to dominate the upcoming elections, or would we witness one of the ‘less fortunate’ districts reach new heights. Nevertheless, this overall concentration of power in Old Mysore, Central Karnataka and Coastal Karnataka regions has certainly pushed people to think.