VENKATESH KESARI | 20 DECEMBER, 2017
Communal tensions spread across coastal Karnataka
NEW DELHI: Hindutva, will be the plank of the BJP for the Karnataka Assembly elections early next year.
A key party strategist told The Citizen, “Hindutva will be our main poll plank in Karnataka and we will win 150 of the total 224 seat under the leadership of B.S.Yeddyurappa.” The target is a minimum 150 seats with the BJP working to build a strategy to polarise communities in the southern state where it is determined to get a hold.
The first major pre poll violence has gripped Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district following communal clashes, the ‘mysterious’ death of a youth, exaggerated and false propaganda about the death and a Facebook post by the local MP Anant Kumar Hegde who threatened more violence and bloodshed in the state saying, “the chief minister should be ready for a bigger Marikamba Habba.” The last is a Sirsi temple event where birds and animals are sacrificed. Here the reference was clearly not to non-humans.
The BJP is continuing with the protests with the entire belt simmering with communal tension since December 6 when the first clashes broke out. Siddaramaiah is not relenting either, accusing the BJP for using the youth’s death for politics. There are 14 seats in coastal Kannada where the BJP/RSS has been working for a long while now, with little to no effective resistance at the ground level from the Congress party.
The BJP sources also said that these polls would be easier in that unlike Gujarat, the anti-incumbency is expected to work “in our favour and against the Congress.” Although backward castes and minorities constitute about 40 percent of Karnataka’s population, Lingayats and Vokkaligas have been controlling political power in the state.
The BJP candidate for CM Yeddyurappa is a prominent Lingayat leader, while Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah is from the Kuruba community. He will lead the battle for the Congress party in the elections.
As per the BJP's calculations, the Janata Dal (S) will not be a major factor in this election as former chief minister HD Kumarswamy has been unwell and thus may not campaign through the state. On the other hand, his father and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda is too old and hence curtailed. Besides the JD(S) has sunk to an ineffective organisation with its influence vastly reduced in the state.
CM Siddaramaiah has been playing the Kannada chauvinism card to check the BJP's Hindutva while Deve Gowda hopes his party, confined to Hasan, Mandya,Killarney,Mysore and Chikamagalur,could emerge as a balancing factor after the polls. Siddaramaiah fears that the BJP could create a law and order problem in the state, in particular in Shimoga,Belgaum and Mysore by polarising people on communal lines with tensions already being reported from Hunsur.
The BJP is counting on aggressive Hindutva to weaken the backward caste card of the Congress and the Vokkaliga plank of the JD(S), the sources confirmed. Karnataka is the only major state the Congress has after Punjab having lost its governments in Maharashtra,Assam, Haryana,Andhra Pradesh,Kerala,Delhi and now Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP, according to the sources, is concentrating on coastal region and central Karnataka where Hindutva politics has been drawing a dividend. The RSS and its front organisations have been active in these areas, with BJP President Amit Shah already setting up the poll committees for the 2018 elections where an almost straight fight between the Congress and the BJP.
This will be the first election of Rahul Gandhi as the party president, and an agni pariksha as leaders said. The BJP will play every trick in the book to win this election that will give it a base in southern India that it currently does not have.