Karnataka Elections: Will Independent Hindutva Hardliners Dent BJP's Vote Share?

Sri Rama Sene's Pramod Muthalik's move to contest elections may affect prospects of the BJP in 25 constituencies.

Karnataka Elections: Will Independent Hindutva Hardliners Dent BJP's Vote Share?
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The controversial chief of Sri Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik has announced that 25 people with staunch Hindutva ideological backing will be contesting in the upcoming Assembly elections in Karnataka.

In what is being seen as a threat to BJP, the candidates are being chosen to revive the "Hindutva" and are critical of the Basavaraj Bommai's government in the state. 

The Quint spoke to the head of Sri Ram Sene, leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the opposition Congress to understand the implications of independent splinter groups being formed in the Sangh Parivar and how it is likely to be a hindrance to BJP’s electoral performance in May 2023.


Sri Ram Sene's Pramod Muthalik To Lead Independent Candidates in 2023 Assembly Elections

Pramod Muthalik, infamously called as a 'moral policeman' in Karnataka, and known for his hardline Hindutva stance, announced on 11 November, that he will certainly contest in the Karnataka assembly elections which is to be held in May 2023.

Clarifying that he would be contesting as an independent candidate, Muthalik also told the media that 24 others who are part of Hindu Sanghatana Okkuta, a union of Hindu organisations, based in Karnataka will also contest elections.

In an interaction with The Quint, Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik said:

"We are carrying out surveys in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, Chikkamangaluru and Dharwad. Based on the data we collect, we will decide which candidate can contest from which constituency. As of now, I am also in talks with five religious heads of mutts in our state, requesting them to fight elections. Their names will be announced with the rest of the candidates in the first week of December."

The group of 25 candidates, who are being considered to fight the elections independently, are being identified based on their activities to promote the majoritarian Hindutva ideology, he said.

Despite making a decision to contest independently, the collective being led by Pramod Muthalik, is being backed by several leaders of the Bajrang Dal, Hindu Janagruti Samiti, and Hindu Jagaran Vedike, The Quint has learnt.

The Quint's source, who is close to Pramod Muthalik revealed that the chief of the Hindutva outfit also held talks with the leaders in the RSS before taking the decision to bring together 25 independent candidates in the state.

As part of their manifesto, the collective of independent candidates will be pursuing socio-political campaigns in the interest of Hindutva. Talking about their plans ahead for elections, Muthalik also told The Quint that their focus will be to "protect Hindus who are being forcibly converted to other religions."

Other Hindutva causes like total prevention of cow slaughter, fight against love jihad, and the promotion of endogamy are also likely to be part of their manifesto.


Is Congress at an Advantage as Radical Hindutva Activists Are Unhappy With CM Bommai?

Pramod Muthalik has been a vocal supporter of PM Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, lauding the both the leaders of the BJP of as champions of Hindutva.

However, is his decision to contest elections along with 24 other hardline right-wing Hindutva leaders and his criticism of the governing party in Karnataka likely to affect the prospects of BJP in 25 constituencies?

"Out of 25 constituencies in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamangaluru, Uttara Kannada and Dharwad, the BJP had won 22 and the Congress had won just three seats in 2018 assembly elections. With the kind of administration Bommai has provided, the BJP is likely to win all the seats next year," said Rajya Sabha MP Lahar Singh Shiroya to The Quint.

While the BJP's Lahar Singh Shiroya, believes that Muthalik's announcement has very little significance on BJP's votebank, political analyst SM Jamdar opines otherwise.

In an interaction with The Quint Jamdar said, "Now, with Pramod Muthalik and other Hindutva hardliners deciding to fight elections, the BJP might face competition despite them trying to constantly communalise the electorate in the Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Malanadu region. This because the Bommai government, which is accused of being corrupt, is also blamed for "not doing enough" for the Hindu cause."

Pramod Muthalik has also been a vocal critic of chief minister Basavaraj Bommai, alleging that his ministers, allegedly demanding 40 percent commission, were corrupt. Earlier, he along with seers like Om Sri Vidyananda Saraswati and Sai Eshwara Swami from the Karnataka Santa Samithi had also accused the Bommai government of delayed action in the cases of Paresh Mesta, Harsha, and Praveen Nettaru.

Observing the developments from a distance, the Opposition Congress asserted that it doesn't wish to analyse why there were formation of independent groups within the Hindutva organisations, but would rather reap the benefit from a divided vote bank of the BJP.

Analysing the political entry of radical Hindutva activists, Shah Nizamuddin Foujdar, General Secretary of KPCC said:

"One must not give much importance to Sri Ram Sene and its controversial members. These leaders (Pramod Muthalik) are encouraged by the BJP to communalise the vote bank. But, given the current developments, they are likely to cause more harm to the incumbent government than the Opposition."

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