FROM ORGANISING festivals centred around Hindu religious icons to anti-minority posturing, the BJP is using every trick in the trade to woo its core Hindutva votebank, which has drifted away in the past five years.
In an unusual move, the party and its affiliates will hold the Sri Ramotsava festival in Mangalore on 19-21 April in violation of the model code of conduct.
“After the debacle in the urban local body polls, the BJP is desperate to retain its core Hindutva votebank. The three-day convention is an effort in that direction,” says Suresh Bhat Bakrabail of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
In the saffron bastions of Mangalore and Udupi, the BJP lost to the Congress in the local body polls. Overall, the BJP came second with 905 out of 4,976 seats in the state.
During the 2008 campaign, the BJP had promised to ban cow slaughter and declare the Baba Budangiri dargah (considered the Ayodhya of the south) as a Hindu pilgrimage centre, if it was voted to power. However, the party failed to keep its promise. Instead, most of the ministers were caught in corruption scams and infighting.
“The party is so desperate that it is even promising to construct the Ram Mandir,” says Bakrabail.
On 7 April, organisers of the Souharda Sambhrahama, a communal harmony programme promoted by littérateurs, social activists and progressive thinkers at the Milagres Jubilee Hall in Mangalore, were asked to reschedule it as it violated the model code of conduct. However, the local administration is yet to take any action on the Ramotsava.
Despite several attempts, Mangalore District Commissioner Harsh Gupta was not available for comment. When contacted, Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha said he hasn’t come across any complaint. But he said, “since I have been informed now, I will take appropriate action”.
Not only is the BJP trying to make use of Hindu religious symbols for political gain, the party has even upped the anti-minority tirade. At a recent Brahmin convention in Shimoga (280 km north of Bengaluru) former state BJP chief KS Eshwarappa said that “a number of Hindu girls had become victims of love jihad wherein Muslim youths after luring Hindu women, molested and dumped them”.
“The BJP is trying to score political brownie points. Nevertheless, what Eshwarappa said at the meeting reflects the larger mindset of the Sangh Parivar,” says former BJP state chief AK Subbaiah, who heads the Komu Souharda Vedike, a group promoting communal harmony.
Though the BJP was banking on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to revive the party’s political fortunes or at least appeal to the urban voters, Modi’s refusal has dashed its hopes. At a recent public rally in Bengaluru, none of the party’s top leadership were present to give it the required strength. According to political commentators, none of the national leaders want to take the blame for the debacle that is expected in the state. Hence, the job of addressing the voters has been left to the local leadership.