The Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a serious setback in its bastion coastal Karnataka in the urban local body (ULB) elections, putting it in a spot of bother ahead of the Assembly elections on May 5. Now, the question is whether the defeat can be attributed to the aggressive Hindutva agenda the party and its affiliates pursued here over the last five years and if these activities alienated the youth from the party.
Series of attacks
Since 2009 and as recently as early March, the region witnessed a series of attacks on churches. There have been vigilante attacks big and small including the pub attack and ‘home stay’ attack in Mangalore in which young men and women were thrashed. These attacks caught national attention. The perpetrators were seen as immune to the rule of law and protected by the ruling party. The BJP saw a 10 per cent decline in the number of seats it won in the recent ULB elections in coastal Karnataka compared with the 2007 polls. The biggest blow was in the Udupi Municipal Council, which went to the Congress after over four decades.
Political observers say that people’s rejection of the militant face of Hindutva may be one explanation for this. However, various other factors related to anti-incumbency and disillusionment of the people who believed the BJP to be a “party with a difference” also contributed strongly to the change in the political tide. Associate professor at Mangalore University Rajaram Tolpady pointed out that the “bodily attack” as in the case of the ‘home stay’ case of July 28, 2012, came to be criticised by “people of all ideologies.”
Militant Hindutva poses “a big threat to individual liberty which nobody tolerates,” he said. Retired professor at St. Aloysius College Rolphie Mascarenhas said minorities had been apprehensive since the beginning of the BJP Government’s term and their fears had come true. The ULB election results could partly be because of the cumulative effect of this, he said.
The incidents were not isolated, but appeared to be the handiwork of an “organ of the Government.” But a stronger reason for the vote against the party was the utter disappointment of people about the very governance of the BJP. “There was no Government from day one,” he said. But political analyst G. Rajashekar suggested that the Hindutva ideology had ramifications beyond the context of elections. He hoped that the party’s poor show would create a self-doubt about Hindutva politics.
The biggest blow was in the Udupi Municipal Council, which went to the Congress after over four decades… Political observers say that people’s rejection of the militant face of Hindutva may be one explanation for this. However, various other factors related to anti-incumbency and disillusionment of the people who believed the BJP to be a “party with a difference” also contributed strongly to the change in the political tide.
Prof. Mascarenhas suggested that it was desertion of the BJP followers that caused the damage. Even K. Ram Bhat Urimajalu, former Puttur MLA, who rebelled against the interference of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in BJP matters, said that “breach of trust” by the party that went against its promise of a corruption-free and selfless governance was to be blamed for its debacle in the ULB elections. He does not accept that Hindutva agenda of the party had anything to do with it.
Mr. Tolpady said that Hindutva would not work as a long-term strategy and the BJP would realise this sooner than later. He gave the example of Narendra Modi in Gujarat who no longer speaks of Hindutva but keeps harping on the more acceptable “development” agenda. Experts point out that people in rural areas are much more disillusioned with the BJP than the urban voters, who expressed their preference in ULB elections.
– The Hindu
Assembly Elections To Cost Rs. 200 Crore
For this year’s Karantaka Assembly polls, expenses are expected to almost triple since the last elections in 2008. A sum of Rs. 200 crore will be spent on conducting elections to the State Legislative Assembly on May 5, in contrast to the Rs. 70 crore spent in 2008. Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha told presspersons here that the State Government would bear the entire cost, and it has already released Rs. 100 crore. “We sought Rs. 200 crore from the State Government; we will spend about Rs. 180 crore to Rs. 200 crore,” the CEO said.
The State has procured sufficient number of EVMs from Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Bihar to conduct the polls, said officials at the CEO’s office. About Rs. 2.5 lakh will be spent on each constituency to create awareness on enrolment of names in the voters’ list and taking up the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) plan. A total of 50,446 polling booths will be established across the State. The increase in poll expenditure is due to increase in the number of observers, who will arrive in the State after April 10, to monitor the election campaign.
Steps have been taken to increase the percentage of voters to the population from present 62 to 65 in Bangalore. Already, 3.02 lakh applications have been received since January 20, 2013, in the city and nearly 60 per cent of them have been cleared. Mr. Jha said he held a meeting with Excise Department officials asking them to prevent illegal transportation of liquor and manufacturing of spurious liquor in districts.
Karnataka’s Reddys Learn Money, Crowds Don’t Always Mean Votes
Switching from cycle-riding to heli-hopping and lording over Bellary and the BJP in Karnataka, mining barons Reddy brothers and their associates are learning a bitter lesson: money and crowds do not always translate into votes.The lack of vote-catching ability, when elections are only a month away, invariably means desperate attempts to strike a political alliance – only to be spurned. This stark reality has hit the Reddy brothers and their associate B Sriramulu, a former Bharatiya Janata Party Minister, as Karnataka heads to assembly polls.
Mr. Sriramulu quit the BJP in November 2011 as he was not made a Minister in the second BJP Government in the State headed by DV Sadananda Gowda, and floated the BSR Congress. While his patron-in-chief G Janardhana Reddy spent time between Chanchalaguda jail in Hyderabad and the central prison in Parappana Agrahara in east Bangalore over illegal iron ore mining and export, Mr. Sriramulu organised rallies in many parts of the State and managed to gather some crowds. He had the open backing of one of Janardhana Reddy’s two brothers, G Somashekara Reddy (BJP), who continues to be an assembly member. Both boasted of proving to the BJP that it is not a force in the State without the backing of the Reddys and their associates.
The dream came crashing down March 11, days ahead of the announcement of the assembly election date, when the results of the polls to urban local bodies (ULBs) were out. Mr. Sriramulu’s party did not win even one seat out of the 246 in the iron-ore richBellary district, about 300 km north of Bangalore, which the Reddys and Mr. Sriramulu have lorded over since 2004. The party’s overall show was dismal with only 86 of the nearly 1,500 in the fray winning. Elections were held to elect over 4,900 representatives to run 207 urban local bodies.
Since then Somashekara Reddy has virtually disappeared from public view while Mr. Sriramlu has been hunting for allies. The only major party with which he could have hoped for an alliance was the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) headed by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. Sriramulu met Gowda’s son and JD-S State President H. D. Kumaraswamy and spoke confidently of a tie-up coming through soon. His spokespersons went further and told the media that all had been tied up and only a formal announcement was due. The optimism turned out to be totally misplaced.
While Gowda declared that the JD-S would not enter into an alliance with any party, Mr. Kumaraswamy followed suit, leaving Sriramulu to fend for himself. The BJP is likely to give tickets to Somashekara Reddy and the third Reddy brother, G. Karunakara, who was Minister along with Janardhana in the first BJP Government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.
Unlike Somashekara, Karunakara has not backed Mr. Sriramlu and has been keeping a low profile since the arrest of Janardhana in September 2011. Mr. Sriramulu’s sister J. Shanta, who too had been openly backing the brother’s party, is a BJP Lok Sabha member from Bellary. With the BJP prospects of retaining power in the assembly appearing bleak, the party and the two Reddy brothers may stick together as neither has anything to gain by a break-up.
– Indo-Asian News Service