Bengaluru, June 27 (IANS) With Karnataka due for Assembly elections next year, the political scene at ground zero is beginning to heat up. While development is usually part of the discourse in electoral politics, in Karnataka the focus has lately been on the growing religious divide. From Hijab to halal and text book revisions, the state has witnessed a series of flashpoints over the last few months.
The moves are being seen as a calculated strategy by the BJP to retain power here. But for party supporters, Hindutva is synonymous with nationalism.
M.P. Renukacharya, BJP MLA from Honnali in Davanagere district says that “those who oppose BJP including litterateurs should understand that they are living in a Hindu country. This is not Pakistan. Hindus in Pakistan and Bangaldesh are not given so much of freedom. Here everyone is respected.”
For the ruling BJP, the stakes are particularly high. For starters, Karnataka is the only state down south where BJP has a strong presence. Secondly, as a major economic player due to the presence of IT majors and startups, retaining power in Karnataka would add heft to BJP in the corporate sector and internationally as well.
On the other hand, the opposition Congress party has been making all out efforts to wrest back Karnataka. Until a couple of decades ago, the state was a Congress bastion. Initially, it was the Janata Pariwar that broke the Congress hold on Karnataka.
But from mid-90 onwards, BJP slowly spread its footprint over the state and today stands poised as the pre-eminent political party in the state. In recent times, elections in Karnataka have shaped into a three-cornered affair between the BJP, Congress, and Janata Dal (Secular) headed by former Prime Minister H.D. Devegowda.
Observers note that growing communal faultlines are largely responsible for the rising fortunes of the BJP in Karnataka. They point to the recent surge in activities by Hindu groups which are usually tacitly or overtly supported by Karnataka’s ruling party. However, the BJP’s opponents feel that the Hindutva card is merely a diversion.
C.S. Dwarakanath, Chairman Social Justice Cell, Karnataka Congress says: “People have known that Hindutva is an illusion. The gimmicks such as the nomination of tribal candidate for the Presidential elections won’t workout. Backwards, Dalits and tribals are asking what BJP’s programme is for them.”
Unfortunately for the Congress, a weak Central command and multiple power centres in Karnataka make its task of regaining power that much harder. Knowing that it cannot match the BJP’s aggressive brand of Hindutva with its soft Hindutva, Congress is trying hard to lure the minority vote banks back. But it’s been an uphill task so far.
With BJP standing out as the largest party in Karnataka assembly, it’s clear that BJP has benefited from its aggressive posturing. However, it knows it cannot rely on religious identification alone to win elections. With Karnataka’s capital city Bengaluru, also known as India’s silicon valley, is always in international focus, BJP cannot afford too much negative publicity from growing communal tensions. This is where the development card comes in handy for BJP.
In quite a few ways, Karnataka is turning out to be BJP’s Gujarat of the south. Party insiders confide that combining political and development agendas like it did in Gujarat over the last few decades, the BJP can continue to rule Karnataka and use it as a base to spread further south in the next few years. Political observers opine that in the days and months ahead, the ruling BJP will increasingly resort to a twin strategy comprising development and Hindutva.
From hijab to halal, BJP divides to continue its rule in K’taka