D.J. Halli: BJP trying to use rift in Congress
The party is attempting to tap into the resentment against the violence of August 11
The political fallout of D.J. Halli violence and its probe has left the Congress, which has politically dominated the area for long, deeply divided. Sensing this, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is attempting to improve its standing in Pulakeshinagar, Sarvagnanagar, and Shivajinagar Assembly constituencies — neighbouring segments with large Muslim and Dalit pockets.
The alleged role of the former Mayor and Congress leader from the area, R. Sampath Raj, in instigating violence against MLA for Pulakeshinagar (reserved constituency) R. Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy (Congress), over a derogatory social media post against Islam by the nephew of the legislator, has exposed the intense factionalism in the Congress.
“I am a Congress MLA who has been attacked, but our party president has been supporting Sampath Raj on this issue. [The former Chief Minister] Siddaramaiah and [the former Minister] B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan are supporting me within the party,” Mr. Murthy told The Hindu.
This comes after Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president D.K. Shivakumar recently defended Mr. Raj alleging that the BJP was targeting Congress leaders and that there was no evidence of his role in the violence.
The police claim that Mr. Raj was an aspirant for the party ticket in Pulakeshinagar in the 2018 Assembly election, but Mr. Murthy’s entry into the party scuttled his plans. He shifted to C.V. Raman Nagar but was defeated.
Mr. Raj has been a long-time associate of Mr. Shivakumar while Mr. Murthy is close to Mr. Siddaramaiah. “Factionalism between camps led by Mr. Shivakumar and Mr. Siddaramaiah is a sad reality,” admitted a senior Congress leader.
Sensing an opportunity, the BJP has been courting Mr. Murthy from the day the violence broke out in D.J. Halli. His new-found closeness to several BJP leaders has raised red flags in the Congress. A senior BJP Minister said they were keen to make room for a Dalit leader.
“With the party president batting for the person who attacked his house and who is also an aspirant for the party ticket from the same constituency, what is the guarantee that Mr. Murthy will get the ticket from the party for the Assembly polls in 2023? It will soon become untenable for him to continue in that party,” he said.
Mr. Murthy, however, said, “My family has been a Congress family and my constituency has traditionally supported the Congress.”
Sources in the BJP said even if Mr. Murthy does not join them, they see an opportunity to gain a foothold in not only Pulakeshinagar, but also in neighbouring Sarvagnanagar and Shivajinagar constituencies. “These constituencies are dominated by Muslims and Dalits, among other religious minorities. Reverse polarisation of Hindu votes is the only way we can win in these seats. We had won Shivajinagar in 1999 and 2004. The way a section of the minority community went on the rampage in D.J. Halli on August 11 has angered others in the area,” said a BJP strategist.
BJP and govt. narrative
“The narrative of ‘terrorism’ that the BJP and the State government have built around the violence — handing over the probe to the NIA over alleged terror links to the violence, call to ban the SDPI and the PFI, and Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya calling the city a “terror hub” — seem to be aimed at demonising the minority community,” alleged a senior Congress leader.
The BJP, led by its national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh, has never missed an opportunity to emphasise that Mr. Murthy is a Dalit and that the Congress has failed to protect him.