Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s stance in support of the Muslim community in the aftermath of the Tablighi Jamaat incident has backfired on him in the political arena.
His own ministry and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers were unhappy with the CM’s stance opposing the party’s ideological stance.
With widespread Islamophobia after the Jamaat congregation in Delhi, some of whom tested positive after returning to their respective states, the Karnataka Chief Minister too took a stand in support of Muslims saying no one should talk ill of the community for isolated incidents like that of the Jamaat.
“Nobody should speak a word against Muslims. I am warning everybody. If anybody uses a small incident to target the whole Muslim community, I will take action against them,” Yediyurappa told TV9, a Kannada channel in an exclusive interview on April 6.
The CM’s decision came after meeting some of the Muslim community leaders to seek their support to make the attendees understand and push them to get tested.
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While the opposition Congress praised his decision, the RSS cadres and the regional media questioned the CM’s stance and kept blaming the Muslim community for rising cases in the country even as the health ministry did not reveal the religion of those tested positive.
They even started to troll the CM on social media platforms and took to a vilification campaign against the CM saying they do not have any hope in Yediyurappa. #WelosthopeBSY was trending on Twitter after his pro-Muslim remark.
Member of Parliament Shobha Karandlaje, Yediyurappa’s political confidante and Minister for Tourism, Kannada and Culture C.T. Ravi led the anti-Muslim vilification campaign. They went ballistic and built a narrative of “corona jihad” against the community and called them anti-nationals. The MP even falsely claimed that some of the Jamaat returnees spat on doctors in Belagavi, a claim that was later proved false.
His own political secretary MP Renukacharya asked the government to issue directions to “shoot” the Tablighi Jammat attendees for not getting themselves tested for COVID-19. While the Jamaat congregation was to be criticised for its irresponsible act, it also led to a virulent attack on the community.
But the divide in the party worsened with the vandalism incident in Bengaluru on Sunday (April 19) where the city police charged and arrested many Muslims. The party members have been baiting or blood and asking to take action against the area MLA Zameer Ahmad Khan and hold him responsible for the vandalism. Khan had said the authorities should have cooperated with him while going to the area for quarantining people in the area.
While Yediyurappa’s party’s stance might differ, the CM took a soft stance considering that people, those who attended the Jamaat congregation in Delhi, will come for testing voluntarily if they are not demonised by the government.
“The community should not have let free from the start. They should have been warned and the CM should have given a free-hand to the police. Now the state is suffering with a few clusters marked as Muslim-dominated areas which are reporting more positive cases, said one of the sitting Ministers who did not want to be quoted.
While there was discord with the party high command in Delhi ever since the BJP came to power in Karnataka, Yediyurappa also faced resistance and pressure from his own party workers. But his pro-Muslim stance is further alienating the CM with ministers not backing him.
Opposition leader Siddaramaiah in October had said the state’s governance was ‘remote controlled’ by party’s national general secretary B.L. Santhosh.
Santosh’s confidant and BJP Yuva Brigade founder Chakaravarthi Sulibele, on Monday, after the vandalism in Bengaluru, said the CM had succumbed to the community’s and secularists’ pressure. He told TV9 Kannada, a regional channel, that the CM was ‘ordering’ Hindus to adhere to the lockdown rules while he is ‘requesting’ Muslims to do the same.
“I feel the government has failed at the start itself. They should have issued strictures since start but they failed. The government succumbed to certain pressure from the community leaders,” he said.
Political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Narendra Pani says the party would not mind changing the Chief Minister if they don’t see him fit to the agenda. Yediyurappa already faced resistance but this certainly would affect his prospects in the long run.”