File photo of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah meeting the Lingayat community Seers at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on March 18.(PTI Photo)
File photo of Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah meeting the Lingayat community Seers at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on March 18.(PTI Photo)

Karnataka election results 2018: RSS says Congress’ Lingayat card backfired

The RSS, which perceives the proposal to recognise the Lingayats as a religious minority as a move to divide the Hindu electorate, has, however, maintained a diplomatic stance on the issue.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Smriti Kak Ramachandran
UPDATED ON MAY 15, 2018 06:47 PM IST

The emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the largest party in the Karnataka assembly after the May 12 election is an indication of the people’s faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and is a popular riposte to vote bank and caste politics that pit Hindus against each other, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders said while summing up the verdict in the southern state.

Also read: Track the Karnataka election results on our live blog and interactive maps that provide real-time data and analysis

Senior RSS functionaries, some of whom spoke to Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity, said the BJP’s performance was a sign of Hindu consolidation and evidence that the Congress’ bid to divide the Hindu vote by proposing the status of a separate religion for Lingayatism had backfired.

“Just ahead of the assembly election, the Congress government, by pushing for a separate religious status for the Lingayats in the state, tried to woo the community. This strategy clearly failed as the people saw through their plan and chose to go with the BJP. The Hindus in the state saw it as a ploy to divide them,” said a senior RSS functionary who has served in Karnataka.

The RSS, which perceives the proposal to recognise the Lingayats as a religious minority as a move to divide the Hindu electorate, has, however, maintained a diplomatic stance on the issue. Rajesh Padmar , RSS functionary in Karnataka, said the RSS believes it should be decided on the basis of a consensus between the Lingayats and Veerashaivas.

Arun Anand, author of the book, Know about RSS, also attributed the BJP’s gains to the coalescing of the Hindu vote. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose energetic campaign n Karnataka, where he addressed over 20 election rallies, gave the party an electoral fillip, Hindu consolidation was a key factor, he said.

“People don’t fall for the Congress’ soft Hindutva, which is used only for electoral gains. This election result is also an indication of what to expect in 2019,” he said.

While the RSS asserts that it steers clear of involvement in electoral politics, leaving that for the BJP leadership to handle, it does not shy away from admitting that its foot soldiers help bolster the party’s campaign. BJP general secretary and former RSS spokesperson, Ram Madhav, also credited the Sangh’s volunteers for helping the BJP notch up gains in Karnataka. Madhav told new agency ANI that Sangha Parivar cadres helped the party enormously. “In certain regions like coastal Karnataka, Parivar has helped us a lot,” he said.

In the case of Karnataka, the RSS cadre drove the campaign to highlight perceived administrative failures of the Congress government in the state, functionaries said. Another issue that was raised by the RSS repeatedly was that of “killings motivated by ideological differences.”

The RSS petitioned the Karnataka governor and the government at the Centre to investigate and deliver justice to the families of RSS volunteers who were allegedly killed in the state. “Those opposed to the RSS ideology were behind there murders, but the government did not take action. In five years, the state has had four home ministers, none of whom could ensure law and order,” said the functionary quoted in the first instance.

Padmar said people in Karnataka had the example of governance in BJP-ruled states as a point of reference.

“People wanted a change because the last five years of the Congress rule were marked by failure of law and order; we saw 24 murders of Hindus, of whom 14 were directly linked to the RSS. The administration failed on several other fronts such as education and health care,” he said.

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