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With Basavanna's 'Vachanas', Rahul Gandhi Aims to Conquer Lingayat Stronghold in Karnataka

By using Basavanna’s name, Rahul Gandhi is trying to turn the tables on PM Narendra Modi and endear himself to the powerful Lingayat caste in Karnataka.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:February 26, 2018, 2:20 PM IST
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With Basavanna's 'Vachanas', Rahul Gandhi Aims to Conquer Lingayat Stronghold in Karnataka
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally in Karnataka’s Belagavi District. (Photo tweeted by @INCKarnataka)
Bengaluru: Congress president Rahul Gandhi seems to have discovered the power of Vachanas after Prime Minister Narendra Modi discovered its author Basavanna to take on Nehru in Parliament two weeks ago.

Gandhi, who travelled across the Lingayat-dominated Mumbai-Karnataka region for the past three days, extensively quoted the Vachanas of Basavanna, the 12th century social reformer and the founder of Lingayat religion or sect.

Buoyed by the good public response he is getting across the region, the Congress chief did not forget to use Basavanna’s Vachanas (preachings) to counter Modi in all his public meetings.

On Saturday, his first day in the region, Gandhi quoted Basavanna’s most famous Vachana — “Ivanaarava Ivanaarava Endenisadirayya, Iva Nammava Iva Nammava Endenisirayya (Don’t ask who is he. Say he is one among us, he is one among us)” — to take on what the Congress calls “Modi’s divisive politics”.

But Rahul Gandhi’s rendition of the Vachana in anglicised Kannada set the internet on fire, with BJP poking fun at him. Since this particular Vachana is a tongue twister for him, the next day Gandhi decided to quote less complicated Vachanas.

On Sunday and Monday, he used Nudidanthe Nade (walk the talk) to hit back at Modi. In the last two days, he used Nudidanthe Nade and Kaayakave Kailasa (work is worship) more than three dozen times in his public meetings in Bijapura, Bagalkote, Belgaum and Dharwad districts. He accused Modi of going back on his 2014 election promises and demanded that he walk the talk as preached by Basavanna.

Carefully quoting lines from Basavanna’s Vachanas is serving two main purposes for the ruling Congress in this election. Mumbai-Karnataka is a Lingayat dominated region and considered a BJP stronghold. By using Basavanna’s name, Rahul Gandhi is trying to endear himself to the powerful caste, which is mostly with the BJP. Secondly, he is turning the tables on Modi by using the Vachanas to attack him.

Two weeks ago, thanking President Ram Nath Kovind for his address to Parliament, PM Modi had invoked Basavanna to counter Congress’ claim of Nehru being the father of democracy in India.

Modi had said that Anubhava Mantapa founded by Basavanna was India’s first experiment with democracy and Nehru was not the father of Indian democracy. After that, almost all top leaders of the Congress in Karnataka have been using Basavanna’s name and Vachanas to hit back at the BJP and Modi.

Vachana, which means ‘speech’, is a form of rhythmic writing in simple Kannada that dates back to the 11th century. Anubhava Mantapa was a forum founded by Basavanna to debate and discuss socio-political issues of his time. It was the most secular forum which gave equal rights to Dalits and women 800 years ago.

The Mumbai–Karnataka region, formerly a Kannada speaking part of Bombay presidency under the British rule, has seven Lok Sabha seats and 56 Assembly seats.

Even though the Congress did quite well in the 2013 Assembly elections, the BJP swept the region in 2014 Lok Sabha polls by winning six seats and the Congress managed to win just one seat.

The BJP claims that in 2013 the region voted against them mainly because the Lingayat face, BS Yeddyurappa, had fielded his own candidates under the Karnataka Janatha Party (KJP) banner. This time they are hopeful of winning the region back under his leadership.

Speaking to News18, Yeddyurappa said, “We welcome Rahul Gandhi quoting Vachanas. Instead of telling us to follow Basavanna’s Vachanas, he should tell his own party men in Karnataka to follow Basavanna. Because the Congress leaders and their children are into goondagiri. They need to be educated about Basavanna more than us.”

The Congress has countered him, saying the party has taken swift and strict action against MLA NA Haris’ son Mohammad Nalapad for an alleged attack on a youth, and that Yeddyurappa should rein in “criminals” in his own party.

The Congress believes that Mumbai–Karnataka is supporting a separate religion tag for the Lingayats and it won’t be easy for the saffron party to win the region back. Water Resources Minister MB Patil, who is spearheading the movement, is from Bijapura district in the same region and he appears to have emerged as the new face of Lingayats in the state.

The Congress, which had no big face from the politically and economically strongest community, is using him to take on Yeddyurappa.

Like his previous Hyderabad–Karnataka region tour, Rahul Gandhi visited several Hindu temples even in the Mumbai–Karnataka region.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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