“BJP is in an independent political party. Sometimes we help them in campaigning for the party or for a particular candidate. In 2014, we were fully into that. Again we are back in full form because we want to defeat the Congress in Karnataka. Over two dozen RSS workers have been killed in the last five years. The Congress government has not taken any action against the murderers. Some are still unsolved,” he said.
According to him, he visits at least 30-40 voters in a day and holds small meetings during weekends on holidays. He adds that sometimes they go with the BJP workers and mostly do the campaigning alone.
A state BJP leader told News18 that each booth in the state will have at least one RSS worker in charge this time. “There are over 55,000 polling booths in Karnataka. They have presence everywhere. They handle the last mile connectivity. No other political party has dedicated cadres like the RSS. It gives us an upper hand,” he said.
Even during the selection of candidates, the BJP takes RSS into confidence and hears their views before finalising the list. “In some seats RSS opposed some BJP candidates. We heard them out. Their views have been taken into account and no major decision will be taken without their knowledge,” said a confidant of state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa.
A day after saffron flags replaced the red flags in Tripura, the RSS had held an emergency meeting at its state headquarters in Bengaluru to chalk out the Sangh’s plan for the poll-bound state.
A few state BJP leaders were also invited to the meeting. A leader who attended the meeting said the mood was upbeat. The RSS always takes greater pride in decimating the Communists, its ideological opponent, than helping the BJP defeat the Congress or some other regional party, the leader had said.
After taking stock of the situation in Karnataka, the RSS leadership has reportedly told the BJP that it will take charge of booth-level management to defeat the Siddaramaiah government.
Speaking to News18, a state BJP leader said, “The RSS is our ideological head. It always helps us in fighting elections. For the first time, the RSS has decided to manage booths in Karnataka Assembly elections. It is a great relief for us. Earlier, they used to help us in a different way.”
Some RSS leaders in the state argue that the Siddaramaiah government is being seen as an anti-Hindu government by the Sangh and its affiliates. They are angry with his policies towards the RSS and, thus, want to oust him.
“Actually, we are not really against many Congress leaders in Karnataka. They are also good Hindus and don’t abuse the RSS. We have nothing against them personally. But Siddaramaiah is different. He acts like a Communist and we dislike him ideologically and personally. Because of that, the RSS has decided to throw its weight behind the Yeddyurappa-led BJP in Karnataka,” a leader said.
The RSS has asked the BJP to break the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Dalit votes who may go with Siddaramaiah in big numbers, he added.
Another RSS functionary feels that ground reports suggest a strong backing for Siddaramaiah among the OBCs and minorities. “Even the SC/STs are not against him. We are aware of it. We get our own feedback using the network of volunteers. It is not going to be easy for the BJP to defeat him. We can’t make corruption the main issue. The BJP is also facing serious charges of corruption. Because of that, we want to do micromanagement to some extent. All RSS volunteers vote for the BJP. But all BJP voters are not from the RSS. Therefore, it is better to have our own people at every booth.”
The RSS has also asked the BJP to make the alleged killing of its workers a big issue in the election. One of the top three leaders of the RSS, Dattathreya Hosabale, is also from Karnataka and hails from Hosabale village in Shimoga district — the same as Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa. He is likely to play a bigger role in his home state’s election as he is familiar with the people, state and caste equations.
The RSS has also appointed another Kannadiga CR Mukunda as one of the Joint General Secretaries of the organization along with Hosabale and three others.
During a meeting with RSS top leaders at its headquarters in Nagpur, the BJP chief Amit Shah has assured them that the saffron party will certainly win Karnataka.
The RSS had taken direct charge of booth management in Karnataka during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Commenting on RSS taking charge of poll booths, state Congress campaign committee general secretary Milind Dharmasena said, “The role of the RSS is exaggerated. RSS has been there for almost a century. But the BJP has emerged as a powerful party only in the last 20 years. RSS works for BJP during every election. The RSS alone can’t bring the BJP to power. The saffron party is playing caste card in this election. If RSS can get them votes, why do they need to give importance to caste.”
The RSS has a strong presence in coastal Karnataka, Mumbai–Karnataka, Malnad and Bengaluru city. But it does not have much presence in rest of old Mysore and Hyderabad–Karnataka regions.