By Aravind S Kamal
Are the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the BJP set to embark on a major political journey in Karnataka in the wake of the controversial Tipu Sultan birth anniversary celebrations? Well, the way the protests are panning out in Karnataka, especially in the BJP strongholds, it is evident that Tipu Sultan is set to turn into a bigger political platform for the BJP and many of its leaders, who badly need an issue other than beef consumption, to make their presence felt in Karnataka and give a tough time to the ruling Congress.
It may be interesting to note that the VHP has made a calculated comeback in Karnataka in the last one year, particularly with incidents relating to moral policing, supported by the Bajrang Dal, in the coastal districts. After the Datta Peetha row (Chikkamagaluru district), the VHP had taken a backseat in Karnataka while the BJP ruled the state. Even when the BJP was in power in Karnataka (2008-2013), its leaders, especially the then chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, ensured that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, were not the visible faces of the party for better reasons. However, now that the Congress is in power and floundering at every level, it was an open invitation for the VHP, which couldn’t resist taking up issues that are closer to the hearts of the masses.
While an overenthusiastic Congress government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has projected himself as the leader of the Minorities, Backward Classes and Dalits, went ahead with the birth anniversary celebrations of the controversial erstwhile ruler of Mysuru, Tipu Sultan, leading to communal clashes, Jnanapith laureate playwright Girish Karnad’s suggestion on renaming the Bengaluru International Airport helped the protesters add fuel to the fire. Today, the VHP has called for a state-wide bandh protesting against the Tipu birth anniversary celebrations and demanding a judicial probe into the death of its activist D S Kuttappa three days ago in the hill-station city of Madikeri.
The effect of the bandh, though peaceful, has been total in the BJP-dominated regions of Karnataka, including Hubballi-Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga, Mysuru, Kodagu and Malnad. Though Bengaluru has largely remained unaffected, the VHP has been successful in announcing its return in style in the state capital with all top leaders of the BJP actively supporting it.
Many other factors are also aiding the VHP in its quest. In Mysuru, the sloganeering VHP activists barged into schools and colleges and informed the students how a Jnanapith laureate was playing truant with their religion. Consequently, Kannada TV channels were seen airing video footage of students, including primary school students, raising slogans against Karnad and condemning him. Probably, the Kannada TV channels too harboured a grouse against Karnad, who refused to give them special interviews in the wake of his remarks on Tipu Sultant, but preferred speaking only with Hindi and English TV channels.
In addition to deploying additional police forces near his home, the Karnataka government has now provided a gunman round-the-clock for Girish Karnad sensing the threat to him. On his own, Girish Karnad is trying to lay low by avoiding the media on Friday because he is of the view that the matter has come to a rest following his unconditional apology to the people of the state.
But looking at the developments in Karnataka, it is clear that neither the BJP nor the VHP will rest till they take the issue to a logical end, as vowed by one of their leaders. The issue has also provided unforeseen opportunities for BJP leaders, who had faded away from electoral politics, to grab the limelight. In Bengaluru, former minister V Somanna, who has lost Assembly elections back-to-back, was quick to share the platform with the VHP in its protests across the city. His speeches are aimed at Siddaramaiah directly and in a hurry, he even demanded the chief minister’s resignation holding him responsible for the prevailing law and order situation in Karnataka.
The BJP seeking the resignation of Siddaramaiah may be wishful and routine, but it is evident that the leaders of the party are keen on enjoying the platform created by the VHP in the coming months.
Updated Date: Nov 15, 2015 10:20 AM