Karnataka: From Tejasvi Surya to Kumaraswamy, ‘nari shakti’ guns for BJP

Too many slips of the tongue and dodgy utterances may damage saffron fortunes in the southern state

Tejasvi Surya (left) and his party colleagues (photo: @Tejasvi_Surya/X)
Tejasvi Surya (left) and his party colleagues (photo: @Tejasvi_Surya/X)

Naheed Ataulla

The party which swears by 'nari shakti (woman power)' appears to be working overtime to alienate women in Karnataka.

Tejasvi Surya, the BJP MP from South Bengaluru, left a meeting in a huff after angry depositors duped by a cooperative bank run by a BJP leader accosted him with inconvenient questions. In videos, Surya is seen pushing away the arm of a woman as he exits, triggering howls of protest.

Earlier this month, BJP MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal courted controversy by flippantly describing the family of Congress minister Dinesh Gundu Rao as "half Pakistani", alluding to his wife Tabassum being born into a Muslim family.

Now an important NDA ally, H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), has caused another furore by alleging that women in the state had become "wayward" and "lost their way" (daari tapidaare in Kannada) because of the five guarantees of the Congress government!

The free rides for women in state transport buses, Rs 2,000 given every month to women heads of poor families, and the 10 kg free monthly rice scheme, three of those five guarantees, have seen runaway success and consolidated women’s support for the Congress.

Livid ranks of women were seen raising a slogan of "go back Kumaraswamy!" Mandya, from where the JD(S) leader is contesting, witnessed dharnas (sit-ins) and saw angry women bringing token gifts of bangles and blouse pieces for the leader, offering to make him one of their own.

Kumaraswamy, in a bid to placate the women, clarified that what he meant to say was that the Congress was misleading innocent village women in the name of guarantees. “Without giving you strength [that nari shakti again], the Congress government is trying to keep you in a position where you seek alms and survive on doles,” he said, angering his audience further.

“I will not ask him to apologise,” said Karnataka deputy chief minister D.K. Shivakumar. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Smriti Irani need to respond and say if they support Kumaraswamy’s position. Kumaraswamy is after all an NDA partner.”

As if these controversies were not enough, a former BJP MLA from Belagavi, Sanjay Patil, targeted woman and child development minister Laxmi Hebbalkar. Addressing an election rally in rural Belagavi, which is Hebbalkar’s Assembly segment, Patil was quoted as saying, “Looking at the huge turnout of women to this rally, akka (elder sister) will have to take some sedatives or an extra peg to get a good night’s sleep.”

Mahila Congress volunteers laid siege to his house, forcing Patil to point out that he had not taken Hebbalkar’s name in his speech and only said akkabai. “It’s your interpretation that extra peg means energy drink. Indian culture has taught me to respect women. Those who are upset can lodge a complaint with the Election Commission, but cannot lay siege to my house,” he added sullenly. 


Mohammed refuses to go to the mountain

The BJP MP from Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha constituency, V. Srinivas Prasad, declined a personal invitation from former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa to attend a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Mysuru on 14 April, Sunday. After declining to give a ticket to one of Prasad’s sons-in-law in the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had ignored him, prompting the upset MP to announce his retirement from active politics.

A surprise visit to Prasad’s house by Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, seven years after the two had parted company, stirred the BJP to action. Siddaramaiah and Prasad are old friends, but the latter quit the Congress after he was unceremoniously dropped from the cabinet by Siddaramaiah in 2016.

Shobha Karandlaje with her new friends
Shobha Karandlaje with her new friends

Prasad joined the BJP and won the Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha seat. After calling on Prasad on 13 April, however, Siddaramaiah said though Prasad had announced his retirement from politics, he (Siddaramaiah) had requested him as a veteran Congressman for his explicit support to the grand old party.

Alarmed by the prospect of the two politicians patching up, Yediyurappa rushed to Prasad, requesting him to attend PM Modi’s public meeting even for five minutes. Prasad declined. “Yediyurappa requested me to attend Modi’s meeting and sit for a while. With folded hands, I told him I have retired from politics and from the BJP. It’s our duty to welcome those who come home. But the decision whether to go out or not is mine,” Prasad said.


The hivemind protocol

The Mangaluru police removed all beehives along the route of PM Modi’s roadshow on 14 April, apparently for ‘security reasons’. The Mangaluru police commissioner wrote to the deputy conservator of forests on 11 April to clear all beehives from Mangaluru internal airport as well.

The move drew criticism from green activists, who argued that the bees do not harm anyone, are rather vulnerable themselves, and should have been left alone. While the security protocol has apparently been in existence for quite some time, the activists lamented the bureaucrats’ insensitivity to environment and nature. The population of bees is, after all, declining worldwide, and this attack on them lacked rationale, they said.

Three little tails

Kamala: A woman carrying a stack of paddy on her head — that is the JD(S) electoral symbol. Not enough to show the party’s alliance with the BJP, quipped the wags. Well, the woman’s name is Kamala (‘of the lotus’) was the riposte from former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil.

Four-legged friend: A photograph of Union minister and BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje patting a donkey went viral in Bengaluru over the past weekend. She was apparently visiting a dhobi ghat to campaign there. Karandlaje is contesting from Bengaluru North.

Mouth ka saudagar: Prime Minister Modi, in a slip of the tongue, referred to BJP candidate Yaduveer Krishnaraja ‘Yamaraj’ Wadiyar as ‘Chamaraja’ Wadiyar. He did quickly correct himself. ‘Yamaraj’ is a member of the former Mysuru royal family, which sponsored Swami Vivekananda’s trip to Chicago and helped set up the Benaras Hindu University (BHU) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

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