• Karnataka: Can Lies and Communal Propaganda Win BJP the Elections?

    "People in Karnataka are not asleep, they can see through the desperate tactics of the BJP"

    Yogesh S

    February 28, 2018

    Image Courtesy:Deccan Chronicle


    Politics is about power. So, naturally, political parties contest elections and try their level best to win and come to power. In elections, they face the public with their agenda, canvassing to amass votes and the results tell us whether a political party and its agenda has succeeded or failed. However, this textbook version of electoral democracy has changed in India. Most parties try to win over people not on the basis of convincing people on what they are going to do but by taking recourse to other devious means. That’s because they are interested in power only, not in serving the people. Karnataka, which will see elections to the state Assembly in May, is a good example of how power is sought to be gained using all kinds of means.

    After BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014 winning a majority in Lok Sabha, subsequent Assembly elections saw it gaining power in only a majority of states. Now only 10 of the 29 states are ruled by non-BJP parties. BJP has openly declared that its target is to rule in all 29 states. So, elections in these 10 non-BJP ruled states are a battlefield for the party to fight and win the battle, expanding and establishing its rule in all 29 states.

    Karnataka is one of them. BJP is preparing itself to gain power in India’s five southern states and it sees Karnataka as the gateway to the South. It is the only one of the five southern states that has had a BJP government in the past and the party is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to make a comeback in the state.

    Only the election results will reveal who succeeded and it is too early to predict and discuss the election results now. But a close look at the tactics that the BJP is employing to win the election is instructive. Remember, BJP lost the elections in 2013 to the Congress after its state government.  Was shown to be steeped in corruption and cronyism, and was palpably alienated from the people, failing to provide a decent pro-people government. This is relevant because it explains the desperation to regain power, even if it means adopting a range of tactics that keep changing as the situation demands.

    report in The Hindu had noted that both BJP and congress “appear keen on highlighting who is more communal keeping aside the development agenda”. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah were till now busy accusing the Congress government in the state of being “anti-Hindu” and lawless. Shah who is currently touring Karnataka, even payed a visit to the families of Paresh Mesta and Deepak Rao , whose deaths were given a communal colour by the BJP leaders, resulting in communal violence in the state.

    In this visit Shah is reported to have shifted his focus on the Mahadayi water dispute between Karnataka and Goa, to bag the votes of farmer of the Mumbai-Karnataka region. Shah is also reported to have promised the farmers that BJP would see to the resolution of the Mahadayi river dispute by giving full access to the river waters to farmers in Karnataka.

    The dispute over the river is with a BJP ruled state of Goa. One must wonder that if BJP and the PM are so sympathetic to the plight of farmers, what is stopping them from resolving the issue right now? Usually, the PM and BJP claim speedy implementation and results. So why not now? They of course would not. The concern is to win this election bagging another state and not the plights of the farmers. The bundle of lies that party is rolling out is also being brought under severe criticism .

    The history of BJP in Karnataka gives us a glimpse into the tactics and the means adopted by the party to come to power in the state. This history is haunted with increased communal violence and heightened corruption. The current Congress government came to power with the agenda to fight back the destruction of secular fabric of the state and corruption of the Yeddyurappa led BJP government. Yeddyurappa, who is again the Chief Ministerial candidate of the party this time, was accused of being involved in the infamous Bellary mining scam, worth 3 billion dollars. His regime also witnessed attacks on the religious minorities in the state. With this infamous history in the state, BJP is left with nothing but blaming and accusing the current Congress government for anything and everything under the sun as a tactic to move the public to vote for the party. Even before elections the hands of the BJP are smeared with blood of the victims of the increase in communal violence in the state which were facilitated by the Sangh Parivar, the larger family of associated organisations of the BJP, all connected to the RSS. Accusing chief minister Siddaramaiah of minority appeasement politics, BJP seems to be justifying its communal politics.

    James Manor , professor at the Centre for Advanced studies in University of London, gives us a detailed historical account of the electoral politics in the state of Karnataka in an analytical article recently published in Economic and Political Weekly. Manor rightly observes: “No state government in Karnataka has been re-elected since 1985. Some of the six governments rejected by voters over the last 32 years had performed reasonably well, but faced ouster nonetheless.” He goes on to share his concern if this is going to be the case with the current congress government as well and says: “This grim reality casts doubt on the outlook for any ruling party in the state, including the current Congress government led by Siddaramaiah and which will face the polls before May 2018.”

    As everyone following the developments around election in the state are arguing, Manor also notes: “The Congress also faces a challenge from a party with great political momentum. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the Uttar Pradesh state election and its subsequent inclusion in the ruling coalition in Bihar lead many many to see it as unstoppable. But Karnataka has its own distinctive political logic.”

    In other words, the trends of the past may well be reversed in Karnataka this time round. One evidence for this is the increasing desperation of the BJP as evidenced in its changing tactics and its reliance on venomous divisive propaganda.


    Yogesh S is part of the editorial collective of the Indian Writers' Forum.

    Co-publised with Newsclick

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