Mangalore is a must-visit destination for any BJP stalwart on an election tour to Karnataka. Reason: The Sangh Parivar, which has gradually tightened its grip over the area, considers it a stronghold.
It was Mangalore — which has a literacy rate of 71 per cent and a large number of educational institutions run by the government, private bodies and trusts affiliated to all religions — that gave the Parivar its first MLA south of the Vindhyas in 1962 (see graphic). Over the years, the influence of the Parivar has frayed the communal fabric of the area.
The BJP squarely blames the minorities for delicate communal situation in Mangalore. “We will continue to resist domination by minorities who are forcing their religion on us. Muslims are building more mosques, while Christians are forcing people to convert. It is their design to grow in numerical strength that has lead to tension. Every action will have an equal reaction,” said Capt Ganesh Karnik, BJP MLC.
The polarisation of the population along communal lines, claimed Dhananjaya Kumar, former Union minister and four-time BJP MP from Mangalore, began as a result of the policies followed by successive Congress governments in Karnataka. “The Hindus (who make up 70 per cent of Mangalore’s population) came closer to us because the Congress was doing everything to win the votes of minorities,” he said.
Karnik added that “constant friction” with members of the Muslim and Christian communities, who came to Mangalore from Kerala and Goa, respectively, helped the party consolidate its Hindu votes.
“This was not only a political consolidation. It was socio-cultural consolidation, too. It is nothing short of nationalism,” he said.
It is this attitude of the party and its affiliates that nurtured people like Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, a former RSS member and Bajrang Dal chief, who are now out of the control of the Sangh Parivar.
Though the incident at Mangalore’s Ambience pub was not communal in nature, it was this culture of intolerance – and the hatred it bred – that has now come back to haunt the party.