Ahead of elections, D-K & U-K turn communal cauldron

Congress, BJP in blamegame over violence in coastal districts

Ahead of elections, D-K & U-K turn communal cauldron

With the crucial Assembly elections round the corner, incidents of communal violence are flaring up in two coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada.

The two national parties the Congress and the BJP are indulging in a high-pitched blamegame as the two districts continue to remain in the grip of communal tension. While the BJP is accusing the Congress government of turning a blind eye to "jihadi forces" that, according to it, are targetting Hindu activists, the ruling party is charging the saffron party and Sangh Parivar for inciting violence.

Instances of communal flare-ups have been reported from Bantwal, Ullal, Mangaluru and Surathkal in Dakshina Kannada districts and Honnavar, Sirsi and Karwar in Uttara Kannada district during the last few months. The BJP, it appears, is seeing an opportunity electorally due to apparent polarisation of votes, while the ruling Congress has been on the defensive as it is being blamed for its failure to maintain the law and order.

The politics of coastal district is distinct and peculiar compared to other regions of Karnataka: it is communal, polarised and ideologically driven. Caste has hardly played a role in the electoral politics here.

After the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, the BJP has emerged as a formidable force in the coastal districts, which were for long Congress bastion. The strong presence of the Rashritya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has also helped the saffron party. The intense competition between the BJP and the Congress for electoral gains is cited as one of the reasons for the communal flare ups in the region.

The BJP observers are of the opinion that the party has no option but to hit the streets every time there is a communal tension, as its a question of its survival. The entry of Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of Popular Front of India (PFI), during the last few years has added a new dimension to the political equations in the region.

The aggressiveness on the part of the BJP following the murder of its activist Deepak Rao in Surathkal on Wednesday is a case in point. The BJP also took to the streets following the murder of Paresh Meshta in Honnavar in December (which lead to violent incidents in neighbouring Karwar and Sirsi towns) and Sharath Madivala in Mangaluru.

On its part, the Congress has blamed the BJP for triggering clashes by holding protests despite prohibitory orders. "Taking mileage of clashes and whipping up public emotions has been time-tested political strategy of the BJP," Home Minister R Ramalinga Reddy said.

BJP general secretary and Udupi-Chikkamagalur MP Shobha Karandlaje said that had the state government crushed the SDPI/PFI with a heavy hand, many killings could have been stopped. She accused the government of indulging in "vote-bank politics" and minority appeasement."

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