Janata Dal (Secular) has been attacking the BJP Government for raking up communal controversies for electoral gains. Though the party was seen as being inexplicably “soft” on the BJP Government, giving rise to suspicion of an internal understanding, former Chief Minister and JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy has upped the ante against the Government in the last couple of months.
Do you think the Government failed in curbing communally sensitive issues from growing big?
The hijab issue that started with six students in Udupi could have been nipped in the bud. The Government allowed it to spread. When handbills asking for a boycott of halal meat were in circulation, the Government did not act. Thankfully, the public did not respond to the call. When Muslims traders were kept away from jathres, nothing was done. If the BJP is citing a 2002 order, why was it not implemented between 2008 and 2013 when it was in power?
What do you think has been the Government’s role in this?
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai makes light of serious controversies. The Government is being remote controlled, and has shirked from its responsibility. The Government has an agenda and is encouraging the situation to divert public attention from price rise and inflation. The VHP and Bajrang Dal are the face of it. Instead of taking action, it encouraged those trying to disturb peace. But those expressing critical views against them on social media are targeted.
What is your assessment of the social situation in Karnataka?
There is a difference between the situation in North India and in Karnataka. Day-to-day life is well coordinated between the communities in rural areas here. Attempts are being made to spoil this, but it will not succeed. Despite calls to boycott Muslim traders, mango growers in Ramanagaram and Kolar continue to trade normally with Muslims.
Will the BJP benefit electorally from creating communally sensitive situations?
This is being done to consolidate Hindu votes, but it will boomerang in Karnataka. After the hijab issue broke out, there was a talk that BJP may have swung 2% to 3% votes in its favour. However, I am told people are getting tired of issues that followed one after another. There is anxiety and suspicion. People are realising that the BJP is not talking about development but communal issues that disturb peace.