The two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarians Nalin Kumar Kateel and Anant Kumar Hegde from coastal Karnataka who stoked a controversy by taking sides with Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, are not new to making communal and insensitive statements.
With the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the party’s core Hindutva ideology, the duo have a track record of intimidating police, polarising voters and threatening Muslims in the coastal areas.
The party calling for action this time remains a one-off instance. BJP, which entered South India through Karnataka, let them grow over the years despite their communal statements and attempt to divide the Hindu-Muslim unity in the coastal belt.
The duo supported Malegaon blast accused and Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Sadhvi Pragya’s remarks on Gandhi’s killer calling him a patriot, after actor Kamal Hassan called him the “first Hindu extremist.”
Kateel tweeted saying Godse killed only one person, terrorist Ajmal Kasab killed 72, while former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi of the Congress ‘killed’ 17,000 thereby indicating that the latter was a cruel killer. Meanwhile, Hegde tweeted saying Godse would have finally felt happy with the debate.
While Kateel and Hegde deleted the tweets and apologised for their remarks, the BJP, though, distanced itself saying their comments were against the party’s ideology, it swung into action by referring them to the party disciplinary committee.
BJP steered their rise
In the early 90s, Hegde, led a controversial campaign to raise the Indian flag in Hubli’s Idgah Maidan, a prayer ground for Muslims. The ownership of the land was under dispute and the matter was sub-judice then.
The incident marked an open threat to the Muslim community. BJP leader and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Uma Bharti, along with Hegde and others, dodging prohibitory orders, entered Idgah Maidan on August 15, 1994. It led to a full-fledged communal violence.
After the fallout, when an arrest warrant was issued against Bharti, the party ousted her from the chief ministership. But it led to the rise of Hegde. The BJP gave him a ticket to contest from Uttara Kannada in 1996. Ever since it has remained a BJP bastion.
While Congress leaders like Veerappa Moily, Janardan Poojary, Margaret Alva and Oscar Fernandes, all hailing from coastal Karnataka, spent time in Delhi in party activities, the BJP under Hegde’s tutelage rose swiftly and began controlling the region.
Hegde is known for making communal statements targeting Muslims
Hegde, in 2016 told media persons that as long as there’s Islam in the world, there will be no end to terrorism. “If we are unable to end Islam, we won’t be able to end terrorism,” he said. He requested the television channels to telecast his words as it is and that he would not retract his statements. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tat1OMJdKSA
The state police took suo-motu cognisance and booked him for alleged hate-speech and outraging religious feelings. The BJP did not condemn his remarks then. It let him spread venom. Indeed, in 2017 it made him the minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship.
Again, in 2018, in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections, he made a provocative and misogynistic remark against Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao saying he ran behind a Muslim lady (Rao married a Muslim woman).
The minister did go the extent of saying that his party will change the Indian Constitution to remove the word “secularism” from it. After the incident created an uproar in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha, he tendered an apology.
And recently, he questioned the Congress president Rahul Gandhi questioning how, he, being the son of a Muslim could become a Brahmin.
The other MP, Kateel was no less vitriolic. He went on to intimidate a police officer and said the BJP workers were capable of setting the (Mangalore) district on fire if the police failed to arrest the accused in the alleged BJP worker’s death case.
The BJP has given a ticket to this two-time MP, despite the anti-incumbency, and opposition from its cadre on ground.
From beating a doctor, to threatening police and playing the communal card to garner votes, the duo stood strong in their stance.
The party perhaps needed some hardliners like Hegde and Kateel to push its core Hindutva ideology. “The fact that the party hasn’t taken any action against them in the past decade shows the immunity they enjoy,” a former BJP member from Mangaluru said.
Speaking to The Federal, RSS strongman Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, while condemning their recent actions, said, “Both, the BJP and the RSS has been waiting for them to change. With every statement, we thought they will change their tone. But they haven’t”
“There wasn’t any need for them to comment on Godse now, and that shows they bite their tongue at the wrong time.”
Attempts to reach the MPs were in vain as they remained incommunicado.