Karnataka polls: RSS strongman Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat says 'blind' Siddaramaiah engineered communal divide for political gain

Firstpost caught up with RSS strongman Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat for a chat ahead of the Karnataka polls

M Raghuram May 02, 2018 16:33:09 IST
Karnataka polls: RSS strongman Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat says 'blind' Siddaramaiah engineered communal divide for political gain

Mangaluru, Karnataka: Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, the pranta pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), runs a cluster of schools under the banner Sri Rama Vidya Kendra in the small town of Kalladka on National Highway 75.

Karnataka polls RSS strongman Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat says blind Siddaramaiah engineered communal divide for political gain

File image of RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat. Image courtesy: Twitter

He is known to be a mentor to many politicians in Bharatiya Janata Party, including Ananth Kumar, Ananth Kumar Hegde, Pratap Simha, Nalin Kumar Kateel and many other MLAs from coastal Karnataka, Malnad and Bengaluru urban constituencies. Identified as the RSS strongman of the south, Bhat is known for his razor sharp speeches.

His town Kalladka, in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, had been on prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code for a record 51 days — from 28 May to 17 July — in order to control skirmishes between two communities. In view of the upcoming polls, the Election Commission (EC) filed a case against him for allegedly promoting hatred between communities. Firstpost caught up with Bhat for a chat. Edited excerpts follow:

What do you think ails Indian politics? Is it too much religion or too much compromise?

Bhat: These questions are always posed to me during elections. In a country like India, which has a melange of faiths and cultures, religion has, thus far, not posed any problem. But compromise, yes, and it is not by the people, but by the political parties that have ruled us so far.

There is a deep-rooted and very insidious ploy to keep Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Dalits divided. Without this divide our politician cannot survive. This has been handed down to Indian politicians by their British masters. It has gone beyond ‘divide-and-rule’ and during elections, these tactics come to the fore in their most dangerous and cruel manifestation, like in the recent plan to divide the Hindu society’s inseparable community: Lingayats and Veerashaivas.

Do you think Lingayats and Veerashaivas are now divided after the state government sent its proposal to the Centre?

Bhat: Let us not be so naive. Let's not pretend everything is hunky-dory. Did not the Karnataka government moot it in the Assembly? In how many folds does the government want to divide Hindus? It was evident that the State was engineering the divide between Lingayats and Veerashaivas with an eye on the elections.

It wanted the Hindu vote to be divided between the two faiths. How can Siddaramaiah and his government be so blind to the fact that the voters will be incensed with such divides? We saw on TV and read in the papers that street fights broke out between the two faiths after the government notification. They both were known for their peaceful ways of life.

Has Siddaramaiah and his government forgotten the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ concept of Bhagwan Basaveshwara, where people from all walks of life enriched society by their thoughts?

As a modern leader, Siddaramaiah should have risen above the ordinary, particularly when he has such great socialist background. Can the government fragment the society as many times as it wants? We have not seen the other angle, of Dr BR Ambedkar. His thoughts at that age were far much more advanced than any leader of that era could comprehend. He said Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and all other faiths were one people and one nation. In a way, he understood the need for total integration of all religions under one nation. That's the need of the hour.

There’s apparently no anti-incumbency. No farm crisis due to the good monsoon. The Lingayat issue has been put down to rest. Is this why the BJP-RSS is invoking Hindutva politics in Karnataka?

Bhat: Why are you averse to fighting for Hindutva? Just because we follow Hindutva, do we not have right to fight for our survival? Have you taken a look at the demographic chart? After the fall of Nepal, we are the last Hindu nation in the world. Aren’t political parties resorting to minority politics in Karnataka?

Don’t you think not fielding any Muslim or Christian candidates will cost the BJP?

Bhat: I have no answer to that. I do not decide BJP’s internal affairs or party politics.

You once said that the 2008 church attacks in Mangaluru strengthened the prospects of BJP. Do you take responsibility for the rise of BJP? 

Bhat: BJP is a political party. I do not command them. I know my limits.

Some time ago, Yeddyurappa openly dared Siddaramaiah to arrest you. He warned Karnataka would burn if they did...

Bhat: I am not too much into the politics of governance, nor am I mentoring any BJP politicians. However, I have some interest in the protection of Hindus, which might have prompted Yeddyurappa to say that.

Why are you so influential?

Bhat: Who said I am influential? I have grown organically into the socio-political milieu of the region, which incidentally, is brave enough to protect the interests of Hindus.

Pratap Simha and Ananth Kumar Hegde have been called Karnataka’s Modis, maybe because of their polarising speeches. Among the two, whom do you endorse as a leader?

Bhat: I know them from a distance. I would not attribute polarising speeches to them without first-hand experience.

Many Dalit leaders have cautioned people against voting for BJP. They fear that attacks on minorities would increase, like in Uttar Pradesh, if the party is voted back to power...

Bhat: I would not want to comment on that. It's is a hypothetical question.

How long do you think it will take India to put national interest above religious interests? Will it ever happen, particularly in the present day political scenario?

Bhat: Not in our lifetime. Until such time when the fruits of reservation reach the right people, until such time when economic backwardness becomes one of the main criterion for reservation, until such time parties stop pitting communities against each other to reach their political goals. But in RSS, we have launched an arm called Rashtriya Muslim Manch, which is doing a commendable job in spreading the need for uniting Muslims and Hindus in a nationalistic bond. Things are already working, and many scholars, writers and intellectuals from the Muslim fraternity have already started work to this end. You will see in the near future a glimmer of hope for a great unification process.

What are the most important things you'd like to see happen in binding all religions together?

Bhat: Protection of women, mutual respect to the right practice of religion, stop conversion, love jihad and cow theft. No religious texts have said anywhere to disparage other religions, societies and communities. Wrong teaching of religion leads to all these evils.

There are at least two swamijis of the Brahmin community who want to contest in elections. Does your organisation approve?

Bhat: No, I do not think RSS or even BJP for that matter approves of swamis or heads of religious institutions contesting elections. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is not a swami, he belongs to Pantha — Natha Pantha — which is much above and older than the religion as we know in modern times. So, swamis who have political ambitions in Karnataka should not cite his example.

If BJP comes to power in Karnataka, what will be your demands?

Bhat: Be fair to all. Do not discriminate between minority and majority, or this religion and that religion, this community and that community. Try to integrate all of them into one national stream and protect them all with good governance.

M Raghuram is a Mangaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters

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