The year 2018 will witness the first electoral battle in Karnataka scheduled to take place within three or four months. The primary issue for the main opposition party BJP is likely to be along Hindutva lines. The sound of the Congress coming from the North is similar to the sound of ‘soft Hindutva‘ of Gujarat. The social structure of Karnataka, however, makes it difficult for the Congress to go further on the path of soft Hindutva. It is because 16 percent of the population in Karnataka is Muslim. In contrast, the Muslim population in Gujarat is only 9 percent.
Apart from this, it is also true that the Muslims in Gujarat are more organised. Among the Muslims, there are organizations like the Peoples Front of India (PFI) and the Social Democratic Party of India which raise the question of Muslims aggressively. In such a situation, it is not possible for the Congress to take the Hindutva line much further. There is no alternative of Hindutva for the BJP. As it is one of the developed states of the country, it is not possible to sell the Gujarat model for BJP in Karnataka. Like Gujarat in Karnataka, business and industry have been developing without any noise.
Even the issues of power, road and irrigation are not likely to catch the attention of people, because, they too are appropriately developed in comparison with most of the states of India. The story of development of Karnataka is related to the story of the development of the five southern states and sociologists have analysed it in various ways. Southern states have also taken advantage of the economy of globalisation. Karnataka has emerged as a leader in the IT sector. In such a situation, it is not possible for BJP to raise the issue of development. This is the reason why BJP launched Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the beginning of the election campaign, because he is a sage turned politician, whose very look is meant to evoke an implicit religious association in the minds of Hindus.
Will Chief Minister Siddharamaiyya, who will be leading the campaign, be able to face the challenge of Hindutva? The answer to this question is not easy, because in the state there is a big network of organizations like Ram Sena, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. These organizations have been staging protests against a number of issues, from Love Jihad and pub parties to the celebration of Valentine’s Day. These organizations are also heightening the Hindu-Muslim tension in the coastal areas of Karnataka. There has also been a lot of expansion of RSS branches in the state. All these help BJP to stick to Hinduism.
The issue of corruption, which is important to be addressed during elections, is currently missing from the elections in Karnataka. It is not that this issue will not rise. BJP will raise it in some way or the other. But the biggest challenge before BJP is that the Chief Minister’s face, S. Yedurappa, had to leave not only the Chief Minister’s post in corruption but was also forced to leave the party. Rahul Gandhi’s campaign for Karnataka has not started. It would be interesting to see how he presents the soft Hindutva advocated by Congress. It is very important for the Congress to save Karnataka.
As party president, Rahul has to prove that Congress can win elections under his leadership. The equation of Gujarat is also easy for them. The main basis of the social equations developed by Siddharamaiyya makes OBC, Dalit and Muslim together to form a winning equation. The ability to crack this equation is in HD Deve Gowda’s party Janata Dal (S). He has the support of a farmer caste knows as the Vocaliga. But for the last few years, Janata Dal (S) has suffered erosion because of poor quality of the leadership provided by Kumaraswamy, the son of Deve Gouda. In spite of it, he continues to aspire.
In the last few months, especially since the Gujarat elections, there has been a lot of change in the country’s political focus. First of all, Rahul Gandhi has made unemployment a big issue with GST and demonetisation. On the other hand, with the entry of leaders like Jignesh Mewani in the political picture, the impact of Dalit leaders associated with the BJP has reduced considerably. Overall, for BJP, religious polarisation is the only way, meanwhile the Congress faces the challenge to stop it.
– Contributed by Kriti Prasad
Picture Credits: livemint.com