National Politics

How BJP’s Push For Vokkaliga Votes Backfires

For years now, Tipu Sultan has become one of the key figures in Karnataka’s political slugfest. Some call him a hero, a freedom fighter who fought british, some believe he was cruel, tyrant ruler and forcibly converted hindus and Christians in Islam. In the past elections, BJP leaders have been pushing the second narrative. Whereas Congress and JDS Leaders are opposing it by calling Tipu Sultan Freedom fighter. and the debate hasn’t really seen any conclusion. However, this time, the fresh controversy in Karnataka politics, is not about Tipu Sultan but about who killed him.

The BJP has been claiming that it is Vokkaliga chieftains Uri and Nanjegowda who killed Tipu Sultan to liberate the masses from his tyrant regime, which is a complete contradiction to the historical evidence that Tipu Sultan was killed in a fight with British.
Well, the story doesn’t stop at the controversy or verbal attacks on opposition. Several BJP leaders supported this claim and a production house owned by a prominent vokkaliga BJP leader even announced to make a film on the two. But the plan to release this film has now been shelved. The BJP fell flat on its face After a prominent Vokkaliga seer warned the minister to not drag the community in a political slugfest and that the two characters didn’t exist.
Well, let’s talk about the controversy in detail. Who are Urigowda and Nanjegowda? Did they really kill Tipu Sultan? what did the Vokkaliga Seer say? and what are the political impact of this?
Where Did It All Start?
Well the first mention of Urigowda and Nanjegowda by BJP was during PM MOdi’s visit to karnataka on Sunday to inaugurate Mysuru-Bengaluru highway.¬†¬†four arches were put up on the route. One of them was named after Kempe Gowda, a chieftain of the Vijayanagara Empire, who is credited with developing Bengaluru, the second one after Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the former ruler of Mysuru, and the third after Sir M Visvesvaraya, former Divan of Mysuru and one of India‚Äôs foremost engineers. The fourth arch had the names of Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda.
After the Congress objected, and the issue became a controversy, the arch was removed and replaced.
But the first ever mention of the two Vokkaliga figures, is in December 2022, that is four months ago in a play and then in a story book.  The names first figured in the play Tippu Nijakanasugalu (Real Dreams of Tipu) written by the former Director of Rangayana, Addanda Cariappa. In November 2022, the play was staged in Mysuru and a book was also published with the same story.

Since then, BJP leaders in Karnataka have started using the two names to attack Tipu Sultan and the Congress party-led previous state government which started celebrating Tipu Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the former Mysuru ruler.

In December 2022, BJP leader CT Ravi claimed in Karnataka‚Äôs Mandya that the two Vokkaliga leaders ‚Äď Uri and Naje Gowda ‚Äď had contributed to the development of the Mysuru region, not Tipu Sultan. He also promised to build their statues in the Mandya district. A few weeks ago, Karnataka Higher Education Minister CN Ashwath Narayan, addressing a rally in Mandya, said that ‚ÄúVokkaliga chieftains Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda finished off Tipu Sultan,‚ÄĚ and that similarly, the Vokkaliga voters of the district should ‚Äúfinish off‚ÄĚ Siddaramaiah. The statement had caused a huge row and Ashwath Narayan expressed regret later.¬†¬†Karnataka Horticulture Minister Munirathna, a producer-turned-politician, had declared that his studio will make a movie named ‘Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda’. The narrative around the two characters stuck.¬† Until a vokkaliga seer stepped in.

What did the Vokkaliga seer say?
On Monday, the vokkaliga seer Nirmalanandanatha Mahaswamiji intervened in the debate. He urged for putting an end to the issue, citing lack of historical evidence in this regard. The chief pontiff of Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana Math, highly regarded by the dominant Vokkaligas, has called for gathering of information, edicts and historical records about the duo, before arriving at any decision. On Monday, he also summoned Horticulture Minister Munirathna, and asked him to drop the movie he planned to make. The minister obliged and shelved the plan. The BJP leaders have also decided to not to speak on the matter again.
Eye on Vokkaliga Community
Well, while BJP’s plan to push Urigowda, Ninjegowda narartive¬†backfired, the major reason behind it has to be looked at from the perspective of upcoming Karantaka¬†Election. The characters are said to be from Vokkaliga community. the community is second most prominent community in the state after Lingayats. A leaked caste census data says they form 11% of state’s population but the community disputes that saying they form 16% of state’s population next to Lingayats.¬†Vokkaligas decide the outcome of the elections in about 80 Assembly seats, and they are a dominant force in about 50 Assembly constituencies. Most of these are in Old Mysuru¬†region where JDS holds a sway. Of 42 Vokkaliga MLAs won last time, 23 were from JDS. The BJP however, is eyeing the seats in the region this time. and thus, it is important for the party to woo the vokkaligas.
However, the party’s latest faux pas with the Uri gowda and Ninje¬†gowda shows that the party instead of wooing the community may invite their wrath.
Now last but not the least. There have been two pictures gpoing viral on the internet since they appeared on the arch, representing how they both looked like. However, many have pointed out these pictures look like Periya Maru and Chinna Maru two brothers from Tamil land who fought against the British East India Company in 18th century.
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