In backyard Mangalore, BJP loses Sangh vote

The Hindutva laboratory in coastal Karnataka's Mangalore region is at the crossroads as the state goes to polls on May 5. For the first time in nearly 20 years, BJP candidates here do not have a crucial ingredient in their mix the numbers and muscle of the Sangh Parivar cadre.

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Those in the Sangh Parivar who believed that the BJP victory in 2008 would set the stage for imposing right-wing Hindu ideology in the district are a disillusioned lot. Despite the church attacks, the pub attack, the homestay attack, attacks on individuals in inter-religion relationships, a seriously committed group in the Sangh is upset that the BJP did not go the whole hog.

"We have applied the brakes on supporting the BJP in the election this time. We want to see how they will do without our support. They have tied the hands of the workers in pursuing Hindutva agenda... The Sangh leaders have also fallen from grace and are pursuing personal interests," said an agitated official of one of the Sangh's 36 organisations who has been with the Parivar for over 25 years.

"We had five core issues stopping cow slaughter, ending religious conversions, fighting love jihad, opposing caste reservations, and protecting Hindu culture. None of these was effectively pursued and the Sangh was also not allowed to do it. Now people have started to believe that the BJP uses these issues only to get power," the official added.

Another senior Sangh organiser who has been active for over 30 years in the region is equally disenchanted, though less vocal. "As members of the Sangh, we are not allowed to seek personal gain. It is true and natural for some people to be upset. But ultimately we are still committed to our core values and creation of a Hindu society," the Sangh activist said.

When and how the Sangh groups and BJP started drifting apart is not clear. Many in the Sangh blame it on the lack of a doctrine for how the Parivar outfits should function when the BJP is in power.

Some others root it to the July 28, 2012, attack on a private birthday party at the Morning Mist homestay facility in Mangalore by over 40 youths of the extremist Sangh outfit Hindu Jagaran Vedike. Five girls and seven boys were severely attacked, molested and humiliated in the attack. Sangh leaders accuse the BJP government of not coming to the rescue of the 44 Hindu Jagaran Vedike activists who were arrested.

The BJP's loss in the urban local body polls in March this year is also widely attributed to the volte-face by Sangh cadre. It lost the Udupi municipality for the first time in 45 years. "Our cadre did not go out to support BJP candidates," admitted one of the senior Sangh organisers.

The activist added that even as the BJP and Sangh drifted apart, "There were a lot of internal discussions at baithaks and other places but they remained discussions... There has been a lot of discussion that in India's interest, we must set aside these core issues, that in the globalised world, the challenges are from other places like the US or China, but nothing concrete has come out."

According to him, the BJP has tied its hands despite Mangalore seeing "conversions", "cattle being transported for slaughter", and "inter-religion affairs". He laments that while the cow slaughter Bill is stuck, the anti-conversion legislation remained a non-starter.

The Sangh Parivar organiser defended the attacks on the homestay "there was drug use happening" and other places. "Now parents keep a close watch on their youth. Youth are also careful about their activities... The attacks were a reaction to what was happening around us."

The disgruntlement in the Sangh is also on various other levels, including dalliance with big money that came with access to power, caste favouritism ("towards Brahmins and Bunts"), value being given to "outsiders" rather than core, long-term workers, and degradation of the set ways of discipline in the Sangh.

"It is the sand mining mafia, the drugs mafia, the real estate mafia that is dictating the course of the Sangh and its activities," said the official.

He added that while some Sangh cadre may still work for the BJP in the elections, they would be motivated by immediate profit rather than Hindutva.

According to Rajaram Tolpady, professor of political science at Mangalore University, the BJP and Sangh Parivar are in the midst of a serious ideological political crisis where the Sangh's specific agenda is different from that of the BJP.

"We saw it in the socialist parties in the 1950s where they did not know what to do with power but were very effective in opposing power. The RSS and Sangh who have traditionally opposed power and focused on cultural anchoring have not known what to do with power," Prof Tolpady, who was once associated with the RSS, said.

The professor also believes that while the aggressive Hindutva practised in Mangalore in the last five years was initially with popular consent, "after a while it became extreme and very violent, which has had an effect on the psyche of the people".

According to the Sangh official, there is feeling among the committed members that the organisation is best suited to function without power.

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