BJP to take out march in Karnataka’s communally sensitive coastal region
Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal political opposition in Karnataka, will take out a three-day march in the state’s communally sensitive coastal region starting 3 March. Four of the party’s firebrand Hindutva leaders -- Shobha Karandlaje, Ananth Kumar Hegde, Naveen Kateel and Pratap Simha—will lead Karnataka Suraksha Yatre (march for Karnataka’s security), expected to be attended by Uttar Pradesh BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath on its last day.
The party says the march will highlight lawlessness and corruption of chief minister Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state, and instil confidence in the youth of the region that has seen considerable communal unrest.
Two padayatras, one starting from Kodagu and the other from Ankola in Uttara Kannada, will culminate at Surathkal in Dakshina Kannada on 6 February, one of the most communally sensitive regions of the state, where 28-year-old Deepak Rao, a BJP worker was hacked to death on 3 January.
“This yatra would be to strengthen the party and instill confidence in the youth of the region,” Shobha Karandlaje, BJP member of Parliament said on Wednesday. She refuted allegations the rally would be used to incite communal sentiments, saying it would help both Hindu and Muslim youngsters impacted by the recent surge in communal clashes.
On 3 January, 47-year-old Basheer was assaulted by four people in Mangaluru—a case which the police suspect was a retaliation to the murder of Rao, earlier that day.
According to Ramalinga Reddy, Karnataka’s home minister, there have been at least 23 murders, which includes victims from right wing groups as well as minority groups, in the last four years.
The BJP claims that the numbers of victims from right wing workers itself is above 35.
The BJP’s decision to start a padayatra comes a day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi completed a four-day Jana Aashirvada Yatra across six districts in Hyderabad and Karnataka, criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic policies and highlighting chief minister Siddaramaiah’s achievements.
All three major political parties of the state—BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular)—have conducted or are planning yatras across the state ahead of the upcoming assembly elections in the state. Gandhi will return to Karnataka later this month as part of his campaign.
BJP has maintained that Modi’s three-and-half year rule, the BJP’s five-year rule in Karnataka (2008-2013) and the lawlessness under Siddaramaiah—in that order—would be its main focus in the run-up to the elections.
Siddaramaiah and the Congress had carried out a padayatra in 2010 to Bellary, 320 km from Bengaluru, to highlight the illegal mining scam by several BJP leaders that eventually saw the BJP voted out power after a disastrous five-year term that saw three chief ministers take turns to rule the state.
BJP spokesperson Malavika Avinash says that Karnataka Suraksha Yatre would also counter Congress’ appeasement style of politics. The BJP, which has been trying out new caste combinations in the rest of the state in the run-up to the elections, is trying to consolidate the Hindu vote in Coastal Karnataka region.
While Modi will participate in a backward class rally on 19 February in Mysuru, BJP national president Amit Shah will attend a rally the next day in Dakshina Kannada district. The party has also lined up multiple smaller rallies across different regions in March targeting backward classes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women and farmers.
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