Cameraperson: Meghnad Bose
Video editors: Mohd Ibrahim and Vivek Gupta
It’s the political tu-tu-main-main that will only get louder till the last votes are cast on 12 May. And possibly till the last votes are counted on 15 May.
As BJP and Congress continue to be at each other’s throats in the run-up to the Karnataka election, we caught up with two millennial spokespersons and got them to argue over why should people vote for your party?
Let Tejasvi Surya, General Secretary of the BJP Youth Wing in Karnataka and Aiyshwarya Mahadev, Congress spokesperson tell you. And fight with each other in the process.
Beef Ban Soon?
So let’s talk about an issue that you disagree on – the call for a ban on cow slaughter in Karnataka if BJP comes to power. That’s what the BJP leaders have announced so far. Don’t people have the right to eat what they like?
Of course, people have the right to eat what they like. However, the Constitution of India places reasonable restrictions and also empowers the state to take a few measures to ensure that certain kind of cattle, which are beneficial to the farmers, is given constitutional protection. And that constitutional protection is what we are seeking to extend in Karnataka as well.
Does the Congress agree?
Absolutely not. That’s not the justification behind why the BJP even did it in the first place. If you look at the beef ban and things like that, they are intrinsically part of their ideology where they value the gaumata etc. But that impinges on the rights of a lot of other communities to their food, which is a problem.
While contesting elections in the Northeast, the BJP agreed to not stop cow slaughter there. Why the double standards?
It’s not double standards. It just shows that the BJP reflects true democratic spirit of the people and we do not believe in imposing our choices on anybody. If the people of Karnataka feel that restriction on cow slaughter is an important exercise and must be done, then as their true representative, we will say that in Karnataka that should be done. If the people of the Northeast feel that this is not an important electoral issue, then the BJP respects their sentiments. That is how a true democratic party must function.
Yogi’s Beef With Siddaramaiah
So indigenous cattle, Yogi’s statements about cow slaughter, and “protecting these bovine species” doesn’t exist in the Northeast, according to Tejasvi. At the end of it, if “people’s choices must be respected”, then why is it that Yogi Adityanath comes here and says, “Oh, Siddaramaiah eats beef!” Why is there a problem? Why is he impinging upon a person’s private right to choose what he eats and what he does?
It is Mr Siddaramaiah who first said, “If I want, I will eat beef!” Therefore, it was Siddaramaiah who made the issue of beef an election issue in the first place. Our issues have been the breakdown of law and order in Karnataka, our issue is the growing farm distress, the 3800+ farmers who have committed suicide, that’s where we try to keep the focus.
It’s highly hypocritical of him when he talks about things like the law and order situation because they’re nobody to preach when you look at what’s happening in the north. BJP leaders are not only caught for rape but you see people justifying and trying to legitimise child rape as well, what you saw in Kashmir. The other problem he’s talking about, farm distress – if you look at it, it’s the Central government that didn’t give Karnataka the waiver. We asked for Rs 9,000 crore, they gave us a pittance while UP got a Rs 30,000 crore waiver, which we believe is an absolute affront.
Fiscal responsibility finally rests with the state government. The UP and Maharashtra governments, both led by BJP, have availed all the farm loans, including the nationalised banks. So I think it’s too rich, coming from the Congress, because their only intention of not waiving all loans in Karnataka is so that they can have a political point of passing the buck to Narendra Modi and saying, “Hey, we have done this paltry pittance of waiver but you have not.”
Maybe to change that, Modi should come and waive, right? He says, “I am a Kannadiga, I am one of you.” Why doesn’t he come and waive our loans and also give us better drought relief? The southern states almost subsidise these northern states but we don’t get as much. For example, for every rupee we send, we get 47 paise, whereas UP gets 1 rupee 19 paise. We have made an issue of it.
The elections today is not around UP vs Karnataka. I think they may be scared of Yogi Adityanath’s rallies here.
He can’t win Gorakhpur, why are we scared of him here? We don’t understand his language, he doesn’t resonate with us.
This issue of the north getting more money than the south is not something that is of today. The Modi government, ever since the 14th Planning Commission, has taken concrete measures to review the situation and come up with a more scientific and more equitable way of distribution.
Politicising Rape Cases
Recently, in London, Narendra Modi made a statement that rape should not be politicised. But, the BJP here is putting out ads talking about saving the women of Karnataka etc.
A certain section of vested interests are by design not understanding the difference of what “politicising an issue” means. By “not politicising rape”, what he means is that it should not be a tool where we are going to blame one another for the heck of blaming one another. But does that mean that we should not raise these issues?
No, Tejasvi. Your supreme leader said that whatever party it is, rape is rape, don’t politicise it. The direct contradiction of that is when you put out an advertisement, you have directly politicised it. Because you’re talking about crimes against women and harassment, and openly putting out ads that not only politicise rape but also lay blame on a government, or rather, falsify the problems against a government.
I am asking you a very simple question, Aiyshwarya. Should we stop, should we not raise this issue?
Okay, then why don’t you raise the same issue in Unnao and Kathua, where you’ve been absolutely silent. What have you done, what has Yogi said?
Are you asking me what we have done? The amendment to the POCSO Act?
Poll Plank Hindutva
In coastal Karnataka, Hindutva or Hindu identity has been used as a political tool. Leaders like Anantkumar Hegde say that polarising people for the right cause is real politics. So isn’t Hindutva going beyond a philosophy and acting as a political tool?
Hindutva is the most inclusive philosophy. Hindutva means pluralism.
They’re trying to confuse Hindu dharma and Hindu philosophy with the idea of Hindutva. Hindutva is a concept which is exclusionary, because you’re fighting for a larger Hindu Rashtra.
BJP’s Question to Congress
After 3800+ farmer deaths, after the unprecedented increase in atrocities against women, Bangalore becoming the city with the second highest number of crimes, Bangalore’s infrastructure falling apart, the state witnessing the most divisive government in its history, why do you still think that people should give Congress a chance?
The people of Karnataka know for a fact that we’ve given them five years of stable government. He talks about farmers’ deaths – we were able to prevent more deaths with the sort of schemes we brought in and also because we ourselves funded drought relief. You talk about crimes against women while forgetting completely what happened during the BJP tenure. And also, factually speaking, talking about crimes in Bangalore – the population has increased by 40% and crime rise has been 1.7%. We are trying our best with the situation but the population is exploding. You’re talking about a divisive agenda, Tejasvi, it is not us. What we’ve done for the Lingayat community, yes, you feel bad because 17% of what Yeddyurappa would have banked on as a vote bank has disappeared, because we gave voice to what they want. But at the end of the day, we are not as divisive as somebody going and saying, “This is about a masjid and a mandir, this is about Hanuman or Tipu.” Because for us, it is an inclusive Karnataka that we want.
Congress’ Question to BJP
What is your stand on the Reddy brothers? Because nobody knows what it is!
Shri Amit Shah has very clearly said that the BJP has nothing to do with Janardhan Reddy. And it must be remembered that Janardhan Reddy is the only man among the Reddy brothers who is facing criminal charges, including the CBI investigation related to the mining issues. The other Reddy brothers as well as Mr Sriramulu are not in any way directly related to these criminal charges and investigation that is going on. Therefore, the BJP is associating only with those people who have an untainted image.
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