November 15, 2016

India: BJP raises pitch of Hindutva rhetoric in Karnataka

The Times of India

Determined to snatch Karnataka from Congress, BJP raises pitch of Hindutva rhetoric
Rakesh Prakash | TNN | Updated: Nov 14, 2016, 07.49 AM IST
Karnataka BJP is seeking to pigeonhole his identity as a communal satrap

BENGALURU: A milk vendor-turned-realtor, R Rudresh, a resident of Milkman Colony in Shivajinagar, was largely a nonentity in the city. But, his murder on October 16 off Kamaraj Road in the heart of Bengaluru, when he was returning after having participated in a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) route march put an end to his anonymity.

Following his brutal murder, the BJP turned Rudresh into a martyr. The party's state unit president, BS Yeddyurappa said, "Rudresh's murder is in line with a series of similar incidents, involving party and social activists." BJP claimed that as many as six members belonging to its affiliate organisations have been killed over the past two years. The rather suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of two other party functionaries in the past ten days - in Periyapatna and Aurad - has resulted in the party raising the pitch of its protests against the Congress government's inability to provide security for its workers.

Do these incidents indicate a growing trend of political violence in the state? Brushing aside such fears, law minister TB Jayachandra said, "The BJP is desperate. Regardless of who or where a person dies, they want to politicise it." Chief minister Siddaramaiah, on the other hand, questioned the BJP's opposition to celebrating the legacy of Tipu Sultan. "They opposed Tipu Jayanti on the grounds that the 18th century ruler was anti-Hindu," he said.

However, a senior BJP leader maintained that Rudresh's murder was politically motivated. "How can we keep quiet when we know that Rudresh's killers are from a particular community, who could not tolerate his growing popularity in Shivajinagar. Despite what the Congress is saying, the fact remains that Rudresh was killed because he was an RSS functionary, who was looking to consolidating Hindu voters at the grassroots level," he added.

BJP leaders admit that the preparations have begun for the 2018 assembly polls, and one of their key responsibilities in the run-up to the hustings is to increase the party's visibility across the state. Sources in the party said that attempts were being made increase the support base by piggybacking on issues such as drought, caste, development and corruption. "We have been chalking out different strategies to increase our visibility. Corruption has become passe, and drought has failed to have the desired impact. However. However, going by the reactions to Rudresh's murder, and our stance on Tipu Jayanti, we believe that returning to the Hindutva template will help us gain traction among the voters," they added.

It is against such a backdrop that BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje alleged the involvement of R Roshan Baig in Rudresh's murder, besides seeing a National Investigative Agency (NIA) probe into the incident. The state BJP leadership has aligned itself with the strategy of its national president Amit Shah, who said, "Polarisation also results in counter-polarisation of votes, which will benefit BJP." The party's functionaries, who attended a four-day workshop on the outskirts of Bengaluru earlier this month, are reported to have been directed towards devising methods that would ensure consolidation of Hindu votes.

Besides Yeddyurappa, who is looking to reclaim the CM's post, regaining power in Karnataka - the only major state where the Congress is still in power - is paramount for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah as well. There are also apprehensions that the BJP could, in its endeavour to shore up electoral support, play the caste card in the state. However, sources in the party denied such claims. "We have adopted a certain strategy to galvanise our supporters at the grassroots level. We want the Lotus symbol to be etched in the minds of the populace, and in their hearts too," they added. There are also reports emerging of the party planning to reignite the Bababudanagagiri issue to consolidate its support in the Malnad region.

Sources added that the BJP would start working assiduously in the state, with Shah involving himself in the campaign after the Uttar Pradesh polls. "Although pseudo-secularism will be a talking point, the thrust will be on other issues such as Brand Modi, the Centre's popular schemes, besides highlighting the failures of the Siddaramaiah government. We will decide on the poll template about eight months prior to the assembly elections."

However, the party will look to keep up the pressure on the government with regard to the murder of RSS functionaries and party workers, and look to keep the issue alive.

Victims of political violence?

Since February 2015, the Sangh Parivar has lost six of its members to murder in the state

Vishwanath, 32, was hacked to death in Shivamogga on February 19, 2015. Vishwanath was riding a bike, accompanied by two others on pillion. Police said that he was stabbed to death by activists belonging to Popular Front of India (PFI). The two pillion riders sustained grievous injuries

Prashant Poojary, a 29-year-old flower vendor and a Bajrang Dal youth activist too was hacked to death on October 9, 2015 in Moodabidri, Dakshina Kannada district. Poojary had been campaigning to get a slaughterhouse in Moodabidri closed

DS Kuttappa, 67, an organising secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was killed in the violence that erupted during the Tipu Jayanti celebrations in Kodagu district on November 10, 2015

Raju Kyathemaranahalli, a 37-year-old BJP leader and RSS member was killed at a tea stall at Udayagiri extension in Mysuru, when a gang of five, armed with lethal weapons, attacked him on March 13, 2016. Raju is reported to have opposed the allegedly illegal construction of a place of worship in Kyathamaranahalli

Praveen Poojari, 32, an auto driver was killed in Kushalnagar in Kodagu district on August 14, 2016, when he was returning from the Akhand Bharat Sankalp Diwas. Praveen was a member of the Hindu Jagran Vedhike

R Rudresh, 42, was hacked to death in Shivajinagar area in Bengaluru on October 16, 2016, when he was returning home after attending an RSS patha sanchalan (route march) in the outfit's new ganavesh (uniform)