'Business as Usual' After Bihar: BJP/RSS Hunker Down, Violence over Tipu Sultan in Karnataka
BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha congratulates Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party went into a huddle and emerged with the “consensus” that the Bihar debacle was a “collective responsibility”; that no leader from the BJP or the RSS was responsible for it alone; and that the party went wrong in the “social arithmetic” and the understanding that the votes of the grand alliance were transferable between the constituents. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was given a clean chit for his anti-reservation comments with both he and BJP president Amit Shah meeting to decide that the axe should not be allowed to fall on any one individual.
In the process, the meeting was turned into an exercise to send out a message to the dissidents who were speaking out in Bihar to stop talking, as the BJP closed doors against the old guard---at least for now---and moved into ‘business as usual’ mode.
That it is indeed ‘business as usual’ was also indicated by the violence in Karnataka where the BJP sought to resist the celebrations being held by the state government to celebrate “Tipu Sultan Jayanti.” Right wing groups protested against the government’s decision, with violent clashes breaking out at different spots, Karnataka Chief Minister S. Siddaramaiah stood his ground with, "There is no evidence that Tipu Sultan used to convert people. If he was against Hindus, he wouldn't have protected all of us.” He said that the violence was by those who were trying to communalise Tipu Sultan adding, “he protected many known temples across Karnataka. He was the best patriot and loved his land".
"One should not forget that he mortgaged his children to British when he had to pay fin to protect his land. Today, Karnataka is number one in silk production because of Tipu. People should recognize his good work", he said.
Two persons were injured and one died. However initial reports that a Vishwa Hindu Parishad member was killed in the clashes were clarified later with the fact that he had fallen from a high wall. The state Home Minister Dr G.Parameshwar told the media, "It is unfortunate that one person has died. Some people are trying to polarise people in the society. When the government has decided to celebrate Tipu Sultan's birthday then they should corporate. They are doing a hate politics and I would like to appeal to the protestors to maintain law and order situation in the state. We have consciously taken a decision and request the communal forces to co-operate with us. We will not tolerate this".
The BJP leaders described Tipu Sultan as the “tyrant of Mysore.” Karnataka unit president of the party Prahlad Joshi described Tipu Sultan as a “fanatic”, “anti-Kannada” and said that he had committed “atrocities on Hindus.” It might be recalled that well known actor Girish Karnad who had staged a play “The Dreams of Tipu Sultan” had said very categorically “for me he is the greatest Kannadiga.” He had further said, "He was a thinker and visionary, who represented the best of Karnataka. Unfortunately he has been misunderstood by the people of his own country and a lot of untruths were spread about him."
Despite this controversy in Karnataka, the Bihar battle within the BJP continued. Senior party leader, a nine term MLA, Bhola Singh joined the dissidents to express worry about the party’s decision to move away from the development agenda during the elections. Others who have spoken out include BJP leaders Hukumdev Narayan Yadav and Shatrughan Sinha. Sinha went on to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to congratulate him personally and came into the firing line of abuse that characterises responses to dissent within the party.
Hukumdev Yadav said after the defeat, "Mohan Bhagwat's comment at this time, it filled the backward castes and Dalits with mistrust for the BJP. People showed their faith in Modi...they came in thousands at his rallies, but the RSS chief's comments shook people to the core.” Sinha has been questioning the BJP strategy in Bihar, urging it repeatedly for a course correction. However, after the debacle he was attacked by senior party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya who compared the actor to a dog. Sinha hit back with a tweet, "People want my reaction to Vijayvargiya's remark. My reaction to small or big flies in any party is "Haathi chale Bihar,....bhaunken hazaar".
The allies, in particularly the two Dalit leaders Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi, have been bitter in their criticism of the BJP campaign focusing also on RSS chief Bhagwat’s controversial remarks against reservation. The two who were projected by the BJP as a major ‘catch’ now find themselves alone and isolated in Bihar after their respective parties were virtually wiped out in the state. The Shiv Sena that has been opposing the BJP from the start has hailed the victory of Nitish Kumar and congratulated him. The Sena magazine Saamna has also been exulting over the fact that its candidates---it contested 100 Assembly seats in Bihar---secured more votes than the BJP in at least 35 constituencies.
The BJP and the RSS have decided clearly to close doors to protests together, and to ensure that neither blames the other for the defeat but both hunker down to face opposition from within the party that the old guard is being expected to lead. It remains to be seen whether this strategy is successful, or whether Bihar has sparked off slow but relentless dissent within.