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Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

Behind Karnataka BJP, RSS leaders heckling, Hindutva cadre resentment, caste faultlines

The right-wing activists' move reflected their anger over Nettaru's murder and the “delay” by the BJP leaders in visiting the family of the party worker, who came through the local Sangh Parivar ranks.

Praveen Nettaru, the slain BJP Yuva Morcha worker; (right) an angry mob surrounds BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel’s vehicle as he arrived in Bellare village, Dakshina Kannada district, on Wednesday.

Many activists from various Hindutva outfits in Dakshina Kannada district in the BJP-ruled Karnataka created a stir Wednesday when they surrounded the cars of state BJP president and MP Nalini Kumar Kateel, state minister Sunil Kumar Karkala and RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, when they arrived to pay their last respects to Praveen Nettaru, a BJP Yuva Morcha worker, who was killed on Tuesday at Bellare.

The right-wing activists’ move reflected their anger over Nettaru’s murder and the “delay” by the BJP leaders in visiting the family of the 32-year-old party worker, who came through the local Sangh Parivar ranks. It also indicated their growing disillusionment with the saffron party over a perception that its leadership has allegedly been “self-serving” and working against the interests of Hindutva unlike the cadre.

On Tuesday night, Nettaru, who owned a poultry shop, was hacked to death while he was closing his shop in the region’s Bellare village in Sullia taluk.

Kateel’s car was not only stopped near Nettaru’s funeral site, but was also sought to be toppled by the angry mob. The activists also surrounded the vehicle of Karkala and Kalladka, even as they booed and shouted anti-BJP slogans.

The mob questioned the leaders why the Sangh Parivar cadre was not being protected despite the BJP being in power both in the state and at the Centre. The irate activists also demanded that the government should call off the Thursday celebrations to mark the first anniversary of Basavaraj Bommai as the Chief Minister. The police had to even resort to lathi-charge to disperse them.

Significantly, Kateel represents the Dakshina Kannada region in the Lok Sabha. There has been growing resentment among the Hindutva cadre against Kateel since 2014. He, however, won the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls while riding the “Modi plus Hindutva” wave.

In recent days there have been some allegations of corruption levelled against the BJP government, even as Kateel’s term as the state party chief is coming to an end next month.

In the 2013 Assembly polls, Dakshina Kannada’s Hindutva cadre had turned against the BJP after the then party-led government had come under a corruption cloud. The BJP was then also perceived to be deviating from the core Hindutva agenda for protection of the Hindu culture and against issues like religious conversion, cow slaughter and love jihad. This resulted in the BJP losing most of the seats in the communally-polarised region in coastal Karnataka, where Hindutva has always been the party’s electoral trump card.

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In the 2018 polls, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar had raked up the killings of some of its leaders in Dakshina Kannada to regain seats lost to the Congress party in 2013.

There has also been the play of the caste factor in the region’s right-wing politics, with the majority of the Sangh Parivar and BJP cadre belonging to OBC groups like the Billava (traditional toddy tappers) and Mogaveera (fishermen) communities and their leadership coming from the dominant Bunt (landlords) and Brahmin (priest) communities.

Nettaru was a Billava while Kateel and Kalladka belong to the Bunt and Brahmin communities, respectively.

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The BJP has now sought to promote Karkala, the minister for energy, Kannada and culture, as its Billava face in order to placate the community. However, there still seems to be a lot of resentment among the Billava right-wing cadre in the coastal districts over the perception of a “few leaders from dominant castes enjoying the fruits of power earned through years of the cadre’s ground work”.

Meanwhile, the principal Opposition Congress’s Leader in the Karnataka Legislative Council, B K Hariprasad, a Billava, said, “The murder of the leader of the Billava Yuva Vahini Praveen Nettaru is condemnable. The government must find the real killers of the youth instead of making pre-meditated accusations. The death of innocent youths must stop.”

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The Janata Dal (Secular) leader and ex-CM, HD Kumaraswamy, asked why the BJP government did not learn any lessons after the murder of Bajrang Dal activist Harsha in Shivamogga in February this year. “It is all a political game and poor people are victims of it. Harsha also came from a poor family and Praveen also comes from a poor family. It is just the BJP taking advantage of these deaths,” he charged.

First published on: 27-07-2022 at 11:06:49 pm
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