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As Mob Violence Burnt Bengaluru, Why it Took Karnataka Congress Nearly 12 Hours to React

Congress leaders detained during protest against Bidar sedition case.

Congress leaders detained during protest against Bidar sedition case.

The alleged insult to Prophet by an MLA's relative led to widespread riots and arson. The Congress seems to be in a dilemma over its response.

The late night violence in the Karnataka capital, which claimed three lives and injured 60 police personnel, has shocked the main opposition Congress. Majority of the state Congress leaders have embraced silence, while an official meeting was announced by Shivakumar only after 12 hours.

The reason behind their keeping mum is the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political outfit of the Islamic fundamentalist organisation PFI — said to behind the riots — is in direct fight with the Congress over minority votes. The SDPI which has some presence in Karnataka has contested in the elections against the Congress in the past and has even damaged it's prospects in some seats.

Through its networks, SDPI has managed to gain some popularity, threatening Congress's hold over the Muslim votes.

In Bengaluru, the SDPI-backed goons went on a rampage attacking a police station and setting the house of local Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasamurthy on fire. When the police opened fire to control the situation, three people died.

Srinivasamurthy represents a constituency with a sizable minority population. The SDPI has been trying to make inroads into these constituencies.

The alleged insult to Prophet by an MLA's relative led to widespread riots and arson. The Congress seems to be in a dilemma over its response.

If it condemns the violence with full force, it fears the party might end up in helping the SDPI which anyway is eyeing minority votes and ownership of the community. If it does not condemn, the majority community might move further away from the Congress.

That's why most of the state Congress leaders, including leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah and dozens of other leaders, have not reacted to the incident since last night.

Only a handful of leaders like DK Shivakumar, Dinesh Gundurao and Priyank Kharge have so far tweeted condemning it.

The Muslim leaders of the Congress who see SDPI as a threat to their political existence are also making just feeble noises over the incident, not willing to speak up on SDPI's communal politics.

The growth of SDPI is a worrying development for the grand old party in Kerala and Karnataka.

The ruling BJP, which has nothing to lose politically, is closely watching the SDPI versus Congress fight.