Amid criticism by the Opposition that BJP is reviving Hindutva as an agenda in election-bound Karnataka, the party has asked its state leaders to refrain from making provocative statements, as it wants to focus on the “anti-incumbency factor” and “poor record of governance” of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state.
The party, according to sources in BJP, has already launched an aggressive campaign in the state and now wants to bring the focus back on the Congress government’s governance record. Controversial remarks by some BJP leaders in recent past have led to the criticism that the party is reverting to the Hindutva plank, and thereby diverted attention from the “drawbacks” of the state administration, the leadership feels, a source said.
“They have been reined in,” said a senior BJP leader, referring to Union minister Anantkumar Hegde, who had recently drawn flak with his remarks on secularism and a need to change the Constitution, and party MP Pratap Simha, who rammed his car through police barricade during a BJP-called bandh in early December. Subsequently, a video showing Simha purportedly saying that party president Amit Shah asked them to hold more aggressive protests was widely circulated on social media.
While Hegde, a five-time MP from Uttara Kannada, was forced to apologise in Parliament for his remark on the Constitution, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa, has said that Simha, a first-time MP from Mysuru, had misunderstood Shah’s instructions over “aggressive” protests.
Admitting that a leader like Hegde is an “asset” for the way he has developed his constituency over the years, the BJP leader said, “The party will use him in a controlled way. They (Hegde and Simha) will say what the party wants them to say in the coming days.” He added, “They have been told strictly —no more self-goals.”
The gag order has been issued as the BJP wants to “expose” the Congress government and its governance record in the last five years. “The party wants to focus on farmers’ issues, farmer suicides, failure in building infrastructure in Bengaluru city, breakdown of law and order, corruption charges against the Congress leaders and the government’s soft approach to terror,” the leader said.
However, a top BJP leader said, Hindutva will still be a factor in the upcoming elections. “Issues related to Hindus will dominate at least in districts such as Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Kodagu and Shimoga. Periodic murders of Hindus is an issue (in these districts),” the leader said.
Sources said the party leadership has managed to sort out differences between the state leaders. According to BJP leaders, the party is eyeing around 1.5 crore voters, which could roughly form 50 per cent of votes polled, and pointed out the “success” of statewide padyatra by Yeddyurappa. One leader said that it drew at least 40,000 people in each district, and nearly 2 crore people participated in it overall. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold a rally in Bengaluru on February 4.