In the recent Ramanagara bypoll, the JD(S) couldn’t have won without the Congress’ 35,000 Muslims.
The Karnataka brouhaha over celebrating the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Seringapatam, may seem like the reinforcement of long-held prejudices stoked by politicians, skeetering dangerously close to stoking communal disharmony. Could there be more?
The nationalist chest-thumping by the BJP, with one eye on its Kodagu stronghold where VHP activist Kuttapa died in police firing during protests in 2015, is to consolidate the fracturing Hindu vote at all costs before the 2019 polls. The Congress’ tom-tomming of the son-of-the-soil warrior trope is the same construct, papering over Tipu’s campaigns that slew anyone who stood in his way, Hindu or Christian, touting him as the only one who stood up to the British. It’s a bid to keep its own Muslim vote slipping out of its grasp in the crucial Old Mysuru region, where the shift of the Muslim vote away from Janata Dal(S) to Congress in the May Assembly polls cost Deve Gowda’s party at least 20 seats. In the recent Ramanagara bypoll, the JD(S) couldn’t have won without the Congress’ 35,000 Muslims.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah, falling back on time-worn strategies, is laying the groundwork for 2019. He must ensure the BJP doesn’t open its account in the south — the high BJP voteshare in the recent Mandya bypoll was an eye-opener — while restricting the JD(S) so that it doesn’t have the upper hand in the prime ministerial stakes.
However, the JD(S) may not even ride the Tipu tiger! CM H.D. Kumaraswamy’s no-show, some say, was really because he was spooked by the superstition that anyone who touches Tipu gets burned!