By Arun Srivastava
In a scenario where it appears that road to south for BJP is once again getting blocked, the desperate leadership as a last resort to salvage the situation and stem the crisis is seriously contemplating to turn the electoral battle into a combat between “SAVARKAR VS TIPU” and polarise the society. But in a simple stroke, on April 16, Rahul Gandhi virtually put the BJP on mat by crystallising the electoral scene around the social justice.
Rahul gave Narendra Modi a bigger jolt demanding to publish the 2011 caste census data and apprise the nation of the break-up of OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis and give proportional representation to the oppressed classes in government jobs. It is a known fact that the Prime Minister has been opposed to caste census and has also blocked publication of the 2011 caste census. This move of Rahul will not only have a major impact on poll campaign in Karnataka, but will sooth the sentiments of the opposition leaders across the country. The thrust on the socially marginalised sections and their empowerment through government jobs is being seen as the first sign of a joint Opposition strategy crystallising around the social justice theme.
Rahul’s demand comes after Supreme Court telling the Karnataka government on April 14, that scrapping the 4 per cent quota for Muslims in the state “appears to suggest that prima facie…the foundation of its decision-making process is highly shaky and flawed”. This will not only give impetus to his efforts to reach out to the Muslims, but will also assuage the feelings of the OBCs and EBCs.
At the direction of Delhi, Bommai scrapped the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Muslim community. This has not come as a surprise. Communally charged comments, issues, and speeches have common affair in Karnataka. The move to scrap OBC reservation for Muslims in Karnataka is a part of the chain. Karnataka government took away OBC reservation from Muslims and given it to Vokkaligas and Lingayats
Nevertheless Rahul’s move will demolish the propaganda launched by the BJP leaders that Rahul is against the OBC. Rahul said: “They say I insulted the OBCs. If you are talking about the OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis, the biggest question is what is their share in the population? We know the OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis put together form only 7 per cent of the secretaries of the Government of India.”
Yet another development which awfully exposed the political acumen of the Chanakya of BJP has been former chief minister and Karnataka’s prominent Lingayat leader Jagadish Shettar joining the Congress in the presence of the party’s president Mallikarjun Kharge. Amit Shah had deployed a number of senior BJP leaders to persuade him to drop his decision. But he did not succeed. The humiliation inflicted to Shettar by the leaders was quite acute to pardon: “I was humiliated and badly treated by the BJP leaders. A few leaders in the state are misusing the BJP system and it is hurtful.”
Though Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have been resorting to facade of having pacified the veteran leader B S Yediyurappa by bestowing the prestige and respect which he deserved, his Lingayat supporters are not willing to accept it as the face value. According to them it lacks sincerity. They point out many of the close ides of Yediyurappa left the party and joined the Congress in protest against the humiliation he had to suffer at the hands of Modi and Shah. They claim that some of the bigots who did not have the support of the veteran leader were given tickets ignoring his wishes.
In a significant twist to the state politics just three weeks ahead of the elections, some Lingayat leaders have revived and renewed the campaign for a separate Lingayat religion on the lines of Sikhism or Jainism places. This is against the wishes and policy of the RSS. The demand for a separate Lingayat religion is over a century old, but has gained huge momentum in the last seven or eight years. Addressing a Lingayat convention at Basava Kalyan, noted social activist C S Dwarakanth asked the delegates to keep ‘Nagpur cobras’ at bay if they wanted to get a separate religious status for their faith. This time the convention, Lingayata Maha Adhiveshana, was organised by the new but fast-growing Jagathika Lingayata Mahasabha (JLM). Their decision that Lingayats should develop a secular attitude and stop thinking that they are Hindus (Panditharadhya Shivacharya Swami) has been a major setback to the RSS and BJP, just ahead of the assembly polls
The visit of Rahul to Karnataka and his addressing a public meeting at Kolar has proved to be a major boost for the state Congress. The leaders feel that large number of BJP leaders joining the party has already enthused the rank and file. Both these developments would work against the BJP. The Congress leadership also points out that BJP has never got the majority of seats in Karnataka assembly. Even in the last (2018) elections, it won 104 seats well below the 113 seats required for a clear majority. Congress won 80 and JD(S) 37 seats. However, Congress got more (38.14 per cent) votes than BJP (36.35 per cent), while the JD(S) got 18.3 per cent. The BJP could form the government using “Operation Lotus”. They are sure that this time the party will get clear mandate.
Though RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Narendra Modi have been resorting to all kind of means to win the dalits and extremely backward castes, this time it does not appear that they would succeed in their mission. The Dalits, 17 per cent of the state population, are angry that the BJP government did not take care of their needs. They have refused to accept the internal allocations within 2 per cent enhanced reservation for the community from 15 per cent to 17 per cent unacceptable. BJP’s ‘social engineering’ has also not satisfied the Panchamasalis, who constitute 60 per cent of Lingayats and have been asking for higher reservation but were convinced to call off their protests after the 2 per cent hike in their quota.
Amit Shah’s mode of social engineering has failed to satisfy the dalits and other social groupings that are unhappy with the reservation benefits. These groups are for more reservation in education and jobs. The dalits are also angry at the designs of some Hindutva protagonists to show some section of the dalits in bad light. They also abhor the pressure tactics of RSS to join the Hindu fold.
In fact the dalits, Muslims and even a large section of the Hindus feel sickened at the attempt of BJP, RSS and its allies to intensify the hate politics. In this context the statement of Yediyurappa has received wide appreciation. Only two days back he said that controversies around Muslims students being banned from wearing the hijab in college and the sale of halal meat in the state were unnecessary. “I am not going to support such things. According to me, Hindus and Muslims should live like brothers and sisters. From the beginning, I have taken this stand.”
The BJP government has come under sharp criticism for not paying attention to the civic needs. The road and power system are gradually deteriorating. Power tripping is becoming a regular phenomenon. Widespread religious hate campaign, communal violence and lawlessness has been another hallmark of this BJP government. Religious hate campaign and communal violence has spread to other parts of the state. Every attempt is being made to polarise the voters. What is worse attempts are still being made to vilify Tipu and woo the Vokkaliga community with imagined icons? But the political mood in Karnataka before the assembly polls has certainly turned against the saffron, the desertions and big open squabbles are only a part of that disenchantment. For Congress, the time has come. (IPA Service)