Snubbing Yeddyurappa at such a crucial juncture is nothing less than a suicidal attempt. Then why the BJP has taken the decision?
Two months ago, when the campaigning for the Karnataka Assembly elections began, everyone in Karnataka was sure that BS Yeddyurappa will be the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate. Even the top leadership of the party had signalled that the Lingayat heavyweight will be the CM if the party wins the state. The idea was to unite the party under the leadership BSY who enjoyed mass support.
But, just three weeks before the state goes for polling it is more than apparent that everything is not well between the top leadership and Yeddyurappa. On Monday, Yeddyurappa, in a surprise announcement clarified that his son Vijayendra would not contest from Varuna constituency in Mysuru. Currently, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s Son is contesting from Varuna constituency as Congress candidate. This indeed came as a shocker to many as the indications of Vijayendra contesting from Varuna were being sent by Yeddyurappa even before Congress picked Siddaramaiah’s son for the seat. He was also supposed to file his nomination on Monday.
Announcing the party decision, Yeddyurappa said that a “common man” will fight from the Varuna seat. “With folded hands, I request all of you to support and bless that candidate and make him win,” he said. Though he did not cite any reason behind this, the announcement sent a shockwave among party workers who shouted slogans against Amit Shah, RSS man in charge of Karnataka BL Santosh and Union Minister Ananth Kumar. The protest was enough of a proof that there is a palpable tension between the internal camps in BJP Karnataka and the top leadership of the party. Some also believe that this is a deliberate attempt to block the Yeddyurappa clout. The workers from Yeddyurappa camp also believe that the snub was to decimate the larger support base of BS Yeddyurappa.
Even today, Yeddyurappa is undoubtedly the biggest vote-getter. He also commands respect in Lingayat community. Snubbing Yeddyurappa at such a crucial juncture is nothing less than a suicidal attempt. Then why the BJP has taken the decision?
Is BJP cosying up with JD(S)?
The opinion polls are out and the picture is neither flattery for ruling Congress nor for opposition BJP. The India Today – Karvy Insights opinion poll predicts 90-101 seats for Congress, 78-86 seats for BJP and 34-43 seats for JD(S)+. The Times Now – VMR survey predicts 91 seats for Congress, 89 seats for BJP and 40 seats for JD(S) + BSP. The JAIN-Lokniti CSDS Pre Poll Survey predicted 85-91 seats for Congress, 89-95 seats for BJP and 32-28 votes for the JD(S)+. In any case, it is evident that the Karnataka is headed for the hung Assembly without an absolute majority to any party. On the other hand, JD(S) emerges as a kingmaker.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have often reiterated their dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat. The BJP has successfully managed to route the Congress from the north. However, for BJP the door to south opens in Karnataka and if the party has to continue its winning march; it has to win Karnataka too. Thus, there are possibilities that BJP might try to get JD(S) on board.
For a party that has been hailed for its foresight and strategic planning, BJP will consider all the options before it. The party may get into a post-poll alliance with JD(S). But how will it convince the JD(S) keeping in mind the resolution of JD(S) Supremo HD Deve Gowda to not go with BJP?
The former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has projected his son HD Kumaraswamy as the only fit candidate for the chief ministership. Deve Gowda has openly said that he will not tie-up with BJP. There are many differences between the two parties. While BJP has focused on Hindu-Muslim divide as its core issue in Karnataka, Deve Gowda has been a staunch advocate of secularism. On the other hand, Kumaraswamy and Yeddyurappa cannot see each other eye to eye.
The only way to convince Deve Gowda is offering the chief ministerial post to HD Kumaraswamy. If BJP has to win the state, then the winning formula is this at the moment. This will also give BJP an edge over JD(S). Considering the Modern day Chanakya Amit Shah is, we cannot deny the possibility.
This also explains why BJP top leadership is keeping Yeddyurappa hands tied by giving him no power to make changes according to his will.
Amit Shah and PM Modi are well aware that the results of Karnataka Assembly elections will reflect on 2019 Lok Sabha election as well. To add more trouble, the southern states have already expressed their disenchantment with the BJP. The BJP government in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are facing strong anti-incumbency. BJP cannot afford to lose entire south and two of the biggest states. The loss combined with anti-incumbency of four years is enough to bring BJP’s seat tally down in 2019 paving a way for the opposition coalition.
Whether the above prediction is true or not will be proven after the results come out. However, one thing is sure, if BJP wants to strengthen its prospect for 2019, the victory in Karnataka is crucial.
Did RSS influence BJP’s decision of quitting the alliance with PDP?
The Sangh had recently replaced its office holders in Jammu and Kashmir. The new RSS cadre was said to be in process of reviewing the alliance.
The BJP on Tuesday pulled out of the PDP-BJP alliance ruling the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though the announcement did come across as shocking, it really was no hidden surprise. Since the day, the parties joined hands to form an alliance government in the state, it was clear that a fallout between the two was inevitable. The differing ideologies of both the parties, which were termed as the North Pole and the South Pole, for over the period of three years, led to several incidents of confrontation between the allies.
When PDP-BJP got into an alliance with each other, they both knew that this alliance government in the state like J&K is like walking on the edge of the sword. Both knew that fall was fated. The parties only had to ensure that one of them gets bruised a little. By pulling out of the alliance first, the BJP achieved just the same.
So why in the first place the two parties went for such an “unnatural/unholy” alliance?
The Marriage of convenience:
The Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections took place in 2014 when the BJP had swept the Lok Sabha polls riding on the “Modi wave”. The Congress-Mukt Bharat slogan by PM Modi had turned into a mission for the BJP. Already having won the Assembly elections in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand, the victory in Jammu and Kashmir would be another feather in the cap of BJP. Besides, if the party was successful in forming the government in J&K, the Muslim-majority state in the country, it could prove the opposition wrong who termed BJP “Anti-Muslim”.
Thus, no matter the times Mehbooba Mufti said that the alliance wasn’t about sharing, it was indeed about the numbers.
The confrontations between PDP-BJP:
From Article 35(A) to Ramazan Ceasefire, the parties went into different directions. The incident of violence, stone pelting and terrorist attacks increased multiple folds. The killing of Hizbul Mujahiddin terrorist Burhan Wani displayed the peak point of the anger in the valley against the alliance, the Kathua case did the same.
On the insistence of Mehbooba Mufti, the Centre called for a ceasefire which was welcomed by all the J&K parties but it turned out to be a disaster. According to the official records, in one month alone 73 terror incidents were recorded. While 22 terrorists were killed the death toll of army men rose to 9. Stone pelting incidents too shot up during the month of Ramazan. While in the previous year between April 2016 to May 2017 total 258 incidents of stone pelting were recorded; during last one month, 107 such incidents were recorded.
The killing of riflemen Aurangzeb and journalist Shujaat Bukhari proved to be the last nail in the coffin.
RSS role in J&K:
The RSS leadership had always been varying of the BJP’s decision of alliance with BJP. Though the RSS man in BJP Ram Madhav was made in-charge of the state, the RSS was sceptical about the alliance lasting long. According to a report in Economic Times, the RSS also surfaced the issue of Kashmir during last two meetings with the BJP. According to the report, there was another meeting of RSS functionaries in Jammu in March in which top leaders from Nagpur participated. The meeting talked about the need for the state government to adopt a sterner approach towards militants in Kashmir.
The Sangh had recently replaced its office holders in Jammu and Kashmir. Rupesh Kumar was appointed as the new RSS Prant Pracharak in Jammu Kashmir replacing Ramesh Pappa. It was speculated that his proximity with Dy CM Dr NIrmal Singh, Minister for Health Bali Bhagat and others in BJP with ABVP background led to a biased approach in communicating with the ruling party. However, the new cadre was said to be in process of reviewing the alliance.
Is Sangh the reason behind PDP-BJP fallout?
With 2019 just a year away, the BJP cannot afford to upset RSS which played a crucial role in subsequent assembly election post-2014. The BJP has already been facing a crisis in NDA with several alliance parties turning their backs to BJP. While Shiv Sena has already announced that it will fight the next election alone, the upset TDP quit NDA earlier this years following the row over Andhra Pradesh special status. The other allies like Akali Dal, Lok Janata Party, JD(U) too are seemingly on a bitter term.
At such a time, BJP does not want to get on a wrong side of RSS. The RSS had recently called ex-president of India and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee for an event. The Sarsanghchalak on several occasion had stressed that it does not believe in “Congress-mukt Bharat” or stifling the opposition voices. We can safely assume that it was a warning bell for BJP that RSS can even have a dialogue with Congress and define the narrative. It will not be overestimation if RSS is said to be one of the reasons why BJP dumped PDP.
Mob Lynching is being the new normal in India
Has human life become so cheap that a mob sees no wrong in killing human beings over a rumour?
“Please, don’t beat me”, “I am an Assamese,” the cries of Nilotpal Das fell on deaf ears as the angry mob surrounding him and his friend Abhijit Nath lynched them to death. Both in their 20s, Das and Nath were visiting Assam’s Karbi Anglong district but little did they know their nature trail would turn into a death call.
Abhijit Nath- a Guwahati Businessman and Nilotpal Das-a budding musician from Goa were travelling in a black SUV, when a mob of local villagers stopped them at about 7.30 pm on Friday few minutes after rumours spread that two men had kidnapped a child and fled in a black car. An eyewitness accounted that the mob forced them to get out of the car and searched it. Even though no child was found in the car, the villagers started beating them with bamboo sticks and machetes. The video captures the chilling moments where brutally assaulted victims could be seen begging for their lives. Though the police reached the spot 90 minutes later, however, both of them died before they reached the hospital.
The entire incident took place over a rumour which as The Indian Express reported was short- “Puwali aase garir bhitorot (There is a kid inside the car).” It further reported that the rumours were spread through social media, WhatsApp and even through phone-calls. As soon as the message of two alleged child-traffickers being held spread in the area, people from neighbouring villages too joined the mob mercilessly thrashing the two tourists. “People called their friends in neighbouring villages saying that child abductor has been caught. The people and even rode on bikes to join in,” said a 65-years-old eyewitness. “The crowd strength was at least 500 at one point,” she added further.
It is indeed appalling and shocking to believe that a baseless rumour led a mob to kill two innocent men. A false rumour turned the mob into murderers. A human life has become so cheap that a mob sees no wrong in killing human beings over a rumour. But given the rising number of lynching over false rumours, one can only say that it has become a new normal in India. The sporadically occurences of mob lynching have been increasingly reported since past few years. The incident based on rumours constitute a major part of it.
Lynched over rumours:
A media report analysis by IndiaSpend in June last year revealed that out of total incidents of mob lynching, 52% were fuelled by rumours. Spreading the false news and false statements in someone’s name, spreading edited clips that misreport a particular incident has been on a rise in India. The news generated and forwarded through WhatsApp has also been on a significant rise. Most of the time, the forwards are based on rumours and fake news. With the proliferation of smartphones and wider accessibility of the internet, it has also become easy to spread misinformation and rumours. Some WhatsApp forwards or viral videos serve the purpose to create panic and hysteria among masses.
In two similar incidents last year, Jharkhand mobs beat seven people to death that horrified the country. All over rumours of them being “Child Traffickers”. The trigger was a WhatsApp message that had gone viral, urging people to be careful of strangers as they most likely belonged to a “child lifting gang”.
In 2018 alone, almost 9 cases of mob lynching have been registered. In April this year, a man was beaten to death by a mob after he was seen aimlessly wandering the streets in Tamil Nadu. The month of May recorded six such incidents including a man in Bengaluru being lynched to death after a mob suspected him of being a child trafficker. During the investigation, the police found out the panic was caused over a video in which two men on a motorcycle are seen pulling up to a group of children as one of them grabs a child and they ride off. However, the video is neither from India nor is it real. This happens in most of the cases.
What does law say?
In the past few years, with the increase in social media users in India fake news and rumour-based news has become a menace. Though India has an IPC section 505 to tackle the rumour-mongering, it isn’t doing enough. Especially, in digital formats it is difficult to find who sparked the rumours or where did it originate from. However, by the time it is decoded, the damage would have been done as seen in most of the cases above.
Without a dedicated team of cyber experts, it is difficult for police to take precautionary action. Talking to BBC, senior Assam police official Mukesh Agarwal said, “When rumours start circulating on social media, it takes some time to stop them completely.”
While police departments in the state of Tamil Nadu and Telangana have started awareness drive, in Karnataka, police have set up social media control rooms to monitor posts, viral messages and videos. But it is the need of the hour to find out more robust and potential solution for the problem.
Even if it is over rumour, how is lynching justified?
Over the years, the problem of the mob taking control of the situation and acting on its own will have increased significantly. What or who empowers these mobs, collective mind-sets to take the matter into their own hands disregarding the very law and order in the country? These no more faceless mobs feel that they are immune from the law and act according to their own sense of justice.
In the case of Assam Lynching, so far 19 people have been arrested but it is not so in every case. Last year, when Junaid Khan- a 15-year-old youth from Haryana was lynched over a seat-sharing feud in the train, police found no witness to identify the culprits even when the lynching took place in front of a packed train.
The mob mentality hide behind numbers, which makes it easy for even a small number of people to get away with the horrific crime such as lynching. There have been attempts in the past to justify it as a reflection of people’s anger and frustration, but as a civilised society can we afford to have the mob run the rule? It is our indifference that contributes more to the flourishing of such incidents. The growing cases of mob lynching should unsettle us, worry us; and if they don’t then the day is not far when the anarchy will hit home.
Is Congress regretting its decision to back Lingayat demand?
From the election results, it was clear that the Lingayat votes did not swing in favor of Congress as the party had anticipated.
About three months ago, on March 20 the Congress government in Karnataka finally decided to grant a separate religion status to Lingayat- an electorally and socially powerful community in the state. The decision was taken after a marathon meeting between the state government and influential Lingayat Seers. Back then the decision was hailed as a master-stroke by Congress ahead of the high stake Assembly Election. The issue did rattle BJP enough, however, it could not be transferred into votes. Congress which was hoping to cash on Lingayat votes after granting religious minority status, fell flat on face as it was reduced to only 78 seats from 122 seats.
From the election results, it was clear that the Lingayat votes did not swing in favor of Congress as the party had anticipated. On the other hand, the issue backfired the party with Congress losing in several Lingayat strongholds. Now that the Congress-JD(S) government has been formed in Karnataka, where does the Lingayat issue stand? But let us first assess the aftermath of the decision:
Lingayats rejected Congress:
While many people had called the separate religion status to Lingayat, a Master-stroke, few Congressmen had cautioned that the former CM Siddaramaiah might be playing with fire. The latter anticipation was proved right when the Lingayat “Trump Card” eventually trumped the Congress.
Congress had hoped to add more seats to its tally from the Lingayat-dominated regions of Bombay-Karnataka and Central Karnataka. However, the party faced a defeat in this region. In Bombay Karnataka, the Congress won 17 seats, down from its tally of 31 whereas BJP won 30 seats, up from the 13 it had won in 2013.
In Central Karnataka Congress’ tally dropped from 19 to 13 whereas the BJP’s tally went up to 15 from 12. In Hyderabad-Karnataka, the party barely managed to retain the lead after a close contest with BJP on most of the seats.
Lingayat issue thrown under the carpet?
The Congress’ campaigning ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election centered around the Lingayat issue. So much so, that Congress even made Lingayatism founder Basavanna’s statement “Nudidante Nade” (Walk the Talk) their campaign one-liner. Rahul Gandhi in his every address mentioned Basavanna’s teachings without any fail. Now, it has been almost three weeks since the Congress-JD(S) government took charge. However, there has been no mention of what will be the new government’s course of action regarding Lingayat issue. It is important to ask whether it is deliberately keeping away from addressing the same, now that the party has felt the heat? Where does JD(S) stand in this row? And what should the Lingayat Separate Religion supporter expect from the new government?
Did the loss affect Cabinet selection?
The initial camaraderie between Congress-JD(S) and the euphoria over victory in Karnataka has died down. Three weeks after the swearing-in of HD Kumaraswamy, the parties are faced with the ground reality as the discontent brews among party men. The party seems embroiled in internal strifes over the selection of the cabinet.
On Wednesday, the cabinet was expanded to induct 15 legislators from Congress who were scheduled to take an oath the same day. While few senior Congressmen like D.K.Shivakumar, R.V.Deshpande, Shamanuru Shivashankarppa, K.J.George, Krishna Byre Gowda made it to the cut, most of the ministers from the previous Siddarmaiah government like MB Patil, Satish Jarkiholi have been omitted. The rebellion against the cabinet selection has grown to an extent that these excluded leaders even staged a protest outside the party office in Bengaluru two days ago.
While the party has clarified that the names are selected on the basis of high command’s direction of introducing new faces, the speculations state the contrary. MB Patil who hails from Babaleshwar and is considered the second-most influential Lingayat leader after BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa was at the forefront of the Linagayat separate religion movement. Having worked for the same in the background, Patil took charge of the matter when Congress party decided to back the demand. Reportedly, his persistent effort also led to the Rashtriya Basava Dal campaigning for the Congress.
On the other hand, JD(S) prominent leader Basavraj Horatti has also been excluded from the ministerial berth. He is serving a record seventh consecutive term as MLC representing Karnataka West Teachers’ constituency. Along with MB Patil, he was also at the actively campaigning in favor of the demands of Lingayat community. He had even called out for a public debate with Dingaleshwar Swamiji of Balehonnur Peetha of Gadag district.
Were MB Patil and Basavraj Horatti deliberately kept away from the ministries despite having strong clout? Not only those who supported the Lingayat demand but also those who protested against it (like Eshwara Khandre) have been kept away from the ministerial positions. This indicates that the Congress party no longer wants to associate itself with the Lingayat demand. While it may not abandon the community completely as it may again cost them their numbers, for the time being, it is tight-lipped about the issue.
While the Karnataka Congress is on the verge of a crisis, the future of state-backed Lingayat separate religion demand seems ambiguous.
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