A celebration of Congress’ victory in the Karnataka Assembly election in Bengaluru, May 13, 2023 (Photo: ANI)
AN EERIE REAL-LIFE SCENE AND A vocal demand of naked communalism foretell the ominous consequences of Congress’ emphatic victory in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly election.
The real-life scene was enacted on the streets of Belgaum (Belagavi) where a motley crowd of Muslims chanted slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad!” even as the police looked on.
But the aforementioned communalist demand is the chief source of alarm for the future of a Karnataka under the new Congress regime. The Karnataka (Sunni) Waqf Board chairman Shafi Sadi voiced his demand in a highly public fashion when he said: “We already said before the elections that the deputy chief minister should be a Muslim and that 30 seats be given to us… We got 15, and nine Muslim candidates have won. In about 72 constituencies, Congress won purely because of the Muslims. We, as a community, have given a lot to Congress. Now it’s time we got something in return. We want a Muslim deputy chief minister and five ministers with good portfolios like home, revenue, and education.”
A Faustian deal logically extracts the Shylockian pound of flesh.
Given its Nehruvian history, it would be unsurprising if Congress completely surrendered to Shafi Sadi’s demands. Even at the height of their power as prime minister, both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi routinely performed respectful Sajda at the alleged durbar of Shahi Imam Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid who openly boasted about the power he wielded over them. The Congress leadership of that era viewed the Muslim community as a captive vote bank and also took immense pride in its delusion that only it could contain the nuisance value of this highly volatile vote bank. This among others was the definition of the so-called Muslim veto, a dominant and enduring theme in the Indian political and public discourse until recently.
When we cut to the present, it’s clear that the tables have been turned against Congress which stands on the edge of extinction on the national political stage. To invoke a familiar phenomenon of recent vintage, it is the state Congress units that are repeatedly breathing life into the Nehru dynasty’s fragile hold on the party. It has also been proven beyond doubt that neither Sonia nor Rahul Gandhi can win any election for Congress—even if they use the familiar Muslim-appeasement gambit.
Three clear insights emerge when we analyse the present Congress victory in Karnataka in this light.
The first is the manner in which the state unit minimised Rahul’s electoral jaunts in Karnataka. His “Visveswarayya” gaffe and similar bloopers in 2018 had arguably proven costly.
The second is that the Karnataka mandate was largely against the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government which had scored several self-goals on multiple fronts.
The third flows from the second: the state Congress unit shrewdly capitalised on this anti-BJP sentiment and thoroughly exploited BJP’s vulnerabilities. The Congress campaign was a toxic decoction of brazen Muslim appeasement and a heartless slicing of Hindu society to its very last component. Voting patterns reveal that Hindus primarily voted as Vokkaligas, Lingayats, Kurubas, etc, oblivious to the age-old truth that their long-term interests would be better served and safeguarded if they realised that this protection will come if they stand united. Their anger against BJP and their myopia over short-term gains dictated their voting choice. Thus, BJP allowed Congress to play and win on its traditional and strongest turf: ‘minority’ appeasement and exploiting Hindu social faultlines to the hilt.
Waqf Board chief Shafi Sadi’s demand portends Karnataka’s future. His choice of portfolios to be given to Muslims is equally ominous: deputy chief minister, home, revenue, and education
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EXPECTEDLY, THE SWIRLS of the dust of dissent and infighting have only intensified in the Karnataka Congress after such a heady victory. Ugly visuals of one-upmanship and jockeying for the spoils of triumph had continued to unfold in Delhi and Bengaluru on a minute-by-minute basis at the time of writing. No matter which faction won, Karnataka was already headed towards assured darkness.
While the impossible and unattainable list of freebies will bleed the state dry, the social fabric of Karnataka will simultaneously be torn apart. Even further. But then, this will only be the continuation of a sinister chapter authored rather recently. This point merits a brief historical detour.
For Congress, the 2023 election was an election of desperation. An overwhelming reason for the unprecedented consolidation of the Muslim vote in its favour was the subdued pro-Muslim rhetoric on the part of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S). The electoral result is the best proof of this fact. For the first time since its inception, JD(S) tacitly did not cannibalise Congress’ Muslim vote.
Which brings us to the Congress victory in the 2013 Karnataka election. Siddaramaiah then became perhaps the most ideological chief minister the state has ever witnessed. As part of his AHINDA (a coalition of Muslims and Christians, Backward Castes and Dalits) formulation, he unleashed a slew of baleful measures that disrupted Karnataka’s social fabric in an unparalleled manner.
Hindu society was the biggest casualty of his lethal experiment.
Hindu ‘caste’ leaders with sizeable vote banks were lured with the goodies of office and wealth. The consequence was their isolation from the larger protective and unifying umbrella known as the Hindu cultural and civilisational bond. It was also under Siddaramaiah’s regime that, for the first time, various Hindu maths became open dens of political intrigue. Until his chief ministership, the swamis of some of these maths had maintained at least a façade of dharma and pretended to be apolitical. Others—including the swamis—who didn’t succumb to these temptations were vilified with that time-tested slur: RSS agent, chaddi, etc.
This has an eerie parallel in the manner in which YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has isolated the Reddy community from the rest of Hindu society in Andhra Pradesh. There are now ‘Reddy Christians’— an eminent misnomer—and other ‘Hindu’ Reddys loyal to Jagan Mohan Reddy for the clout and opportunities he provides them.
The other disturbing facet of Siddaramaiah’s chief ministership was the free rein that Islamic radicals enjoyed in Karnataka from 2013-18. From Bengaluru to Bhatkal and from Kodagu to Canara, a vast region was home to targeted killings of Hindus. Deepak Rao, Prashanth Poojary, Sharath Madiwala, Paresh Meshta, Harish Poojary, Raju, and Praveen Nettaru are just a few names of Hindus murdered by Islamic radicals for their crime of supporting Hindu causes like cow protection. Reading the details of just the recorded and reported incidents of this anti-Hindu violence and murder and rioting chills us.
In a manner of speaking, Siddaramaiah’s infamous Tipu Jayanti was the green flag that inaugurated these incidents of Islamic terror. The eve of almost every Tipu Jayanti was marked by rampages by Muslim mobs, mostly in Kodagu and the Mangaluru region, leading to the loss of several Hindu lives. A defanged law enforcement machinery had watched on helplessly.
Perhaps the most lethal phenomenon that Siddaramaiah’s previous regime had unleashed was the influx of Popular Front of India (PFI) terrorists from Kerala into Karnataka. In each of the aforementioned murders of Hindu activists, the perpetrators directly hailed from the PFI ranks or were Muslims hired by PFI.
Overall, relatively tranquil cities like Shivamogga—one of the historic cradles and hubs of Hindu culture in Karnataka— were transformed into centres of Islamic radicalism. PFI and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) goons poured into the city, unleashed violence and arson and decamped to Kerala with alarming ease. The unkindest cut was when scores of these accused Muslim murderers were actually let off on the Siddaramaiah government’s watch.
If this was the violent facet of the Siddaramaiah government’s overt Muslim appeasement, its soft core version was the various Muslim-exclusive ‘schemes’ like Shaadi Bhagya (Gift of Marriage), a taxpayer-funded freebie for Muslims who got married.
Siddaramaiah’s infamous Tipu Jayanti was the green flag that inaugurated Islamic terror. The eve of every Tipu Jayanti was marked by rampages by Muslim mobs, leading to the loss of several Hindu lives. A defanged law enforcement machinery had watched on helplessly
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THE FOREGOING PICTURE is actually a miniature of the sort of Muslim appeasement practised by the previous Congress regime in Karnataka. And this, when the Muslim community hadn’t voted so overwhelmingly in its favour. Now it has.
As mentioned earlier, the audacious demand of the Waqf Board chief portends the first stirrings of Karnataka’s future. His choice of portfolios to be given to Muslims is equally ominous: a deputy chief minister, home, revenue, and education.
The 2023 Karnataka Assembly election also reveals two underlying phenomena unfolding right before our eyes. And these aren’t limited to Karnataka.
One, the Muslim community has prolifically voted for Congress because there is currently no Muslim party that can come to power on its own strength. However, with just nine Muslim MLAs in the 2023 Assembly, Shafi Sadi’s demand, while grossly disproportionate, is also an indicator of the thrall that the Muslim community has Congress in. And who knows, Congress might just surrender to his demands.
Two, Congress’ historical journey of paying obeisance to the likes of Imam Bukhari has come full circle. The 2023 Karnataka election has practically demonstrated that it has become a quasi-Muslim party and a thoroughly anti-Hindu party—two sides of the same coin. Its desperation for power has led it to this fatal nadir and the same desperation will propel it to adopt any extreme measure. These measures might as well herald a future “Karnataka Story”.
POSTSCRIPT: A ubiquitous sight that greeted the people of Karnataka was the frenzied eruptions of celebration by the Muslim community over Congress’ victory. In comparison, there were fewer displays of the Congress party’s flags on the ground.
Sandeep Balakrishna is founder and chief editor of The Dharma Dispatch. He is the author of, among other titles, Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore and Invaders and Infidels: From Sindh to Delhi: The 500-Year Journey of Islamic Invasions. He has also translated SL Bhyrappa’s Aavarana from Kannada to English