BJP’s Polarisation Politics Begins Ahead of Karnataka Assembly Election 2018

“Only you will decide whether you want the land of Bajrang Bali (Hindu God Hanuman) or a land of worshippers of Tipu Sultan (a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore),” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath reportedly told the crowd gathered at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Parivarthan Yatre rally on Thursday at Hubballi in Karnataka.

Yogi was there as part of the BJP’s preparation for next year’s Assembly elections. And, his inflammatory speech looks to be part of a key strategy of the saffron party – to communally polarise the state’s people and take electoral advantage. As a result, communal hate mongering is in full swing in Karnataka.

“When Lord Hanuman is being worshiped across the country, the Congress government in Karnataka, the state known for Vijayanagar Empire, is promoting the worship of Tipu Sultan. The Congress is insulting our rich tradition,” he said apparently attempting to divide the society on religious lines.

This is not the first time that such language with communal overtones is being used in the south Indian state ahead of the elections. Recently, T Raja Singh Lodh, a legislator of the saffron party from Telangana, addressing the Virat Hindu Samavesh convention in Karnataka’s Yadgir district on December 14, called for violence , bragged about ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and said “Hindus must pick up swords”.

He went ahead and called Tipu a “harami” (an abuse), accusing the emperor of converting Hindus into Muslims.

“Whosoever comes in path of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu Nation), his existence will be wiped out. We will not spare them,” Lodh reportedly said. He represents Goshamal constituency in Hyderabad.

“I promise you that integral ‘Hindu Rashtra’ will come into existence, but we will have to fight for it. Brothers, prepare yourself, because we need to learn to wield swords,” he said.

“Why do we need to learn it? To protect our country, our religion. To turn the dream of the Hindu rashtra into a reality,” he said.

“Every Hindu must keep arms in their houses. If you don’t have weapons, neither can you save yourself nor your family,” he added.

If its recent strategies are something to go by, the BJP is looking ahead of the complex caste combinations in the state to reach out to all fragmented Hindu voters and isolate the Congress. The party, which came to power at the Centre on the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (collective efforts, inclusive growth), seems to have shifted to the narrative that “if Congress can use casteism or social engineering, why should we not use religion”.

Analysts say that Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who came to power by successfully consolidating the AHINDA (acronym for minorities, Dalits and backward classes) support base in 2013, continues to hold the controversial castes combination that is likely to challenge the Lingayat-Vokkaliga dominant narrative. Therefore, the BJP does not want to leave any stone unturned and is banking on its Hindutva strategy, which is likely to make next year’s polls one of the most polarised elections in the state’s history.

In the 225-member (224+1 nominated) Assembly in Karnata, the Congress has 123 MLAs in addition to the Speaker, the BJP has 44, the Janata Dal (Secular) has 31 plus 8 rebels, 16 independents and two seats are lying vacant. The majority mark stands at 113.