THE HINDUTVA card delivered a bonanza of seats for the BJP in the communally sensitive coastal districts of Karnataka, despite undercurrents of dissidence from key backward caste groups in the region.
The BJP won 16 of the 19 seats in the region, including the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada. In 2013, the party had won just four seats, while the Congress had won 13. The BJP managed to suppress murmurs of rebellion over denial of tickets, from the backward caste Billava and Namdhari communities, who make up the core of the party cadre in the coastal districts.
“We decided that it would be in our interest to stay on unBengaluru der the BJP umbrella and fight for our cause for representation, rather than work to defeat the larger cause of Hindutva,’’ said a senior leader of a Hindutva outfit.
Despite the presence of rebel Hindutva candidates in several places in the coastal belt, like Kumta in Uttara Kannada and Mangalore South in Dakshina Kannada, the BJP managed comfortable victories.
The Hindutva narrative of the alleged killing of 24 workers of Hindu groups under the Congress rule in Karnataka, and the appearance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi twice in the final stages of the campaign in the region, seem to have benefited the BJP.
In Bantwal region of Dakshina Kannada, where the BJP held a major agitation in July last year over the killing of an RSS activist by alleged members of the Popular Front of India and where several incidents of moral policing and communal violence occurred in 2017, the BJP was able to defeat Congress’s B Ramanath Rai, who has been the local MLA since 1985, only losing in 2004.
In Kumta region of Uttara Kannada, which saw communal violence in 2017 over the death of an 18-year-old youth, BJP candidate Dinakar Shetty was able to override dissidence from a BJP rebel, Suraj Soni Naik, to win the seat.
Apart from the 19 seats in the coastal belt, the BJP also did well in 26 seats in adjoining districts like Chikmagalur and Shimoga, which tend to see some Hindutva influence, winning 10 of the 12 seats in these two districts.