India:  BJP Enters Portal of Power in South
Posted Nov 17, 2007


Asghar Ali Engineer

So at last BJP has realized its ambition of forming government in the South by installing its chief minister in Karnataka. And of course this became possible thanks to Deve Gowda and his Janata Dal (Secular). A political party which broke off from its parent party as the other section (Janata Dal United) had decided to join BJP as part of NDA at the Centre, itself ended up allowing BJP to stall its chief minister and fulfill its ambition of having its chief minister in the South.

There was time when communalism was considered purely north Indian phenomenon and south was supposed to be free of communalism. There were various theories about this. One theory was that Britishers who engendered communalism mainly through policy of divide and rule and taught distorted history in schools where it had direct rule like states in the north. In south, due to princely ruled states, British had no direct influence and such a distorted history could not be taught. Also in princely ruled states there was no direct competition for political power in the form of elections, society was not polarized.

Another important reason was Hindus and Muslims had same language and culture except in parts of Nizam ruled areas. In most of southern states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, parts of what is now Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, all spoke both in urban and rural areas same language and shared same cultural values. Thus it was difficult for communal seeds to sprout. In North besides other factors Hindi-Urdu controversy also played its role in communalizing the society.

In post-independence India too states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu were formed on the basis of language and hence Hindus and Muslims continued to speak Malayalam and Tamil Nadu respectively in both these states. In Karnataka, however, Muslims in urban areas spoke Deccani dialect of Urdu (in certain areas of Tamil Nadu too Muslims in some urban areas spoke Deccani Urdu but overwhelming Majority spoke Tamil) and there was often tension between Kannada speaking Hindus and Deccani Urdu speaking Muslims. When some Urdu programme was started on All India Radio there were riots in Bangalore. Bangalore experienced riots number of times. RSS also has its large office in Bangalore.

However, despite communal tensions here and there, Karnataka always elected Congress government. Hegde, a Brahmin, joined Janata Party and formed Janta Party Government but he was considered champion of Hindu-Muslim unity and Muslims in Karnataka always supported him. Unfortunately he also joined BJP aspiring for minister ship at the Centre but was soon marginalized and died a disillusioned person.

However, BJP was constantly trying to dig its heels in Karnataka and it found South Karnataka quite congenial for its politics as it is dominated by Brahmins. To widen its base it raised the idgah controversy in Hubli town. It insisted that Muslims should hoist national flag there though RSS and BJP never fly national flag from their own offices and always fly saffron flag. Not that Muslims were flying any religious flag there yet BJP insisted that Muslims hoist national flag. BJP leaders used to brag that they will make idgah in Hubli the Babri Masjid of south. Hubli also witnessed riots on this controversy and Hindu-Muslim polarization intensified. On every 15th August Hubli town witnessed communal tension and BJP encashed it politically.

Uma Bharti, the then chief Minister of M.P. came all the way from Bhopal to hoist national flag at Idgah and a case was filed against her for violating the section 144 enforced there by the District Magistrate. She had to resign on this issue from chief minister ship on assurance that it is temporary measure but she never regained it. BJP used this pretext to get rid of her. Needless to say BJP succeeded in widening its base by using this communal controversy.

Another controversy which BJP raised in Karnataka was Baba-Budangini controversy. Both Hindus and Muslims used to visit this place on the top of a mountain to pay their respects without any communal feeling. Muslims considered it as a seat of a Sufi saints who not only began to live in the area but also inspired his followers to start coffee plantation in this mountainous region.

However, Hindus considered it as a seat of what they called Dattatrey and paid their respects to him. But despite these Hindu and Muslim names there never was any controversy between Hindus and Muslims and both together visited the shrine and had great faith in the Baba.

But BJP saw a political windfall in this and used its front organization VHP to launch an agitation claiming it to be a Hindu shrine which has been usurped by Muslims. Again, like Hubli, they created communal tension in the area and increased their vote base. Thus like other places BJP constantly used such controversies to establish itself in Karnataka. BJP always thrive on communalism.

BJP is a single-issue party. It came to power at the Centre also by exploiting Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy to the hilt. It has no other issues and even if it raises other issues, it is just by way of compulsion in a democracy. Whenever it faces any crisis it raises some or the other communal controversy and tries to tide over that political crisis.

BJP reduced Gujarat to a Hindutva laboratory and polarized Gujarat between Hindus and Muslims as never before. It organized genocide of 2002 in Gujarat because it was facing very serious crisis and had been loosing election after election right from Panchayat level to Assembly bye-elections and re-established its grip through slaughtering, in most brutal ways, two thousand Muslims. Now Tehelka sting operation has exposed through the mouths of perpetrators of those crimes what heinous crimes they committed. It shows the depth of inhumanity BJP leaders fell in Gujarat to come to power.

What we hear from M.P. where BJP is ruling is same disheartening story. It is systematically spreading hatred against Muslims and communal riots are taking place in small places like Kukshi, Sanaver and so on towns which had not seen communal violence ever before. M.P. one journalist from Indore wrote to me, is in its way to Gujarat if nothing is done to stop it. These communal activities of BJP will increase as elections come nearer.

After what was exposed through tehelka operation in Gujarat such a party would have been disqualified from contesting elections in any other mature democracy. No democracy would tolerate such hate and murder politics to come to power. BJP does it with impunity and other secular parties, especially the Congress, keeps quiet for fear of loosing Hindu votes.

Now its communal politics in Karnataka over few decades has paid rich dividends and BJP has at last succeeded in forming government in the southern state. It celebrated this event in a big way. It mobilized teeming millions for the oath taking ceremony for its chief minister Yeddyurappa. Also, chief Ministers of all BJP ruled states including Narenadra Modi, leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, L.K.Advani, BJP president Rajnath Singh and other BJP bigwigs attended the ceremony.

Narendra Modi even suggested in his speech that Karnataka should adopt Gujarat model which of course sparked controversy. He was, people thought (and it may be true, who knows), he was suggesting, if need be go for organizing carnage like Gujarat to capture power by itself rather than depending on JD (Secular). BJP leaders, aware of what it could mean, immediately clarified that what Modi means is economic development.

BJP when it shared power with JD (secular) had played havoc and engineered communal violence in Mangalore region. The police, under the BJP MLA from the area, had openly played role in communal violence and police’s role was also blatantly communal. The Minister of Education accused that Tipu Sultan undermined Kannada language and promoted Persian. Which of course was baseless accusation. But communal forces never care for truth. They thrive on false propaganda.

The BJP was doing all this to intensify communal divide in Karnataka when it was not in power and when it shared power as junior partner with J.D (Secular). Just imagine what it can do when now it has formed government and has succeeded in installing its own chief minister. One has to be vigilant.

The role of JD(S) of course has been most despicable. The former Chief Minister Kumaraswamy who was telling that BJP is communal and will communalize the state and that is why it is unwilling to transfer power to BJP not only agreed to install BJP Chief Minister but is eager to become Deputy Chief Minister in his cabinet. Indian politics is nothing if not downright opportunistic. It is such gross opportunism on the part of secular parties that communalism has thrived in India. It would have died its natural death after independence but for such opportunism.

Now secular activists should be quite vigilant and observe developments in Karnataka politics. Of course there are little chance for BJP-JD (S) combination to win elections in the next round. In any case JD (S) had won many seats with Muslim support and it is likely to loose those seats. And this prospects of likely defeat may induce BJP to go along familiar line.


Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
(Secular Perspective November 16-30, 2007)