The post-mortem of violence has begun 30 hours after a 4,000-strong mob allegedly backed by the radical Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) went on a looting and arson spree at a police station and the local Congress MLA’s house in Bengaluru.
The initial findings shed light on several issues plaguing the politics of India’s tech city. Deeply divided politics on communal lines, fight for control over Muslim votes, highly politicised and demoralised police force, and internal squabbling in both Congress and BJP are some of the major issues contributing to flare-ups like this.
According to leading Kannada newspaper Prajavani, Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasamurthy’s nephew Naveen, whose incendiary Facebook post led to a mob attack which claimed three lives and injured over 65 policemen, has been a BJP supporter.
The newspaper report claims that Naveen had declared that he had voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In the past, he had also posted highly derogatory comments against former CM Siddaramaiah and 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan. He had celebrated the shilanyas at Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir by bursting fire-crackers outside his house, the reports add.
MLA Srinivasamurthy, who became collateral damage, claims that he has nothing to do with his elder sister’s son and has not even been in touch with him for the past 10 years. However, Naveen had also posted a Ramzan greeting with a picture of him and his uncle recently.
Based on these revelations, Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar took on the BJP, calling Naveen a BJP voter. It was vehemently denied by senior BJP leaders, including senior state minister CT Ravi.
The SDPI, which has been eyeing the Congress’ Muslim vote share, is in direct contest with the grand old party. The Congress is facing a dilemma over how to fight the SDPI. Some argue that they should take the SDPI head on, exposing its alleged communal agenda. Some argue caution, fearing any direct action may strengthen the SDPI, luring younger Muslims into its fold.
That’s why Muslim MLAs from the Congress -- Rizwan Arshad, Zameer Ahmad Khan and NA Harris -- have been cautious in their response. According to some analysts, earlier the Congress had leaders like the late CK Jaffer Sharief and former minister R Roshan Baig, who had influence among Muslim voters in Bengaluru. The current generation lacks the experience and command, they argue.
The ruling BJP, which has no big presence in these seats, is sensing an opportunity. It feels the Congress versus SDPI battle will eventually help the party.
The BS Yediyurappa government has six ministers from Bengaluru city. But no one has a pan-Bengaluru appeal. They always keep fighting among themselves for an upper hand in the city’s politics. The delayed response from the government to Tuesday night’s incident proves this.
The Bengaluru city police have been politicised over the years to suit the interests of the party in power and frequent transfers of IPS officers in the state capital has demoralised the higher echelons of the force.
Lastly, some suspect the hand of a Congress candidate who narrowly lost the previous assembly election from a neighbouring seat behind Tuesday’s attack. They claim that since Srinivasamurthy is a defector to the Congress from the JDS, many local party leaders are not comfortable with him and they want to push him out to reclaim the seat for themselves.
There are too many questions and no definite answers to any of them.