In March 2018, two months before the Assembly election in Karnataka, the BJP — now facing a cadre rebellion after the murder of party Yuva Morcha leader Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada — launched its Jana Suraksha Yatra.
The four-day yatra, led by leaders like incumbent Union Minister of State for Agriculture Shobha Karandlaje, was aimed at demanding justice for “Hindutva workers killed during Siddaramaiah’s Congress government”.
Barely weeks before that rally, in February 2018, when the then party national president Amit Shah had declared that a BJP government would go after “killers of Hindutva workers”, lakhs of cadres cheered on in high spirits.
The BJP had prepared a list of 23 karyakarthas, who the party claimed were killed for their “Hindutva work”, to spike the election fever in the already communally sensitive districts of Coastal and Malnad Karnataka.
So what if the list of 23 “martyred Hindutva workers” had names of people who were still alive?
So what if the cause of death in many cases was either personal or accidental? So what if the BJP itself identified only 16 out of the 23 on the list as those slain for Hindutva?
23 of our Karyakartas were killed by Jihadis in Siddaramaiah’s Durbar & the Govt’s apathy in handling these cases makes us doubt their integrity.Blatantly Anti Hindu.Lets register our protest.Join #JanaSurakshaYatre pic.twitter.com/ZYYayhL9nZ
— Captain Brijesh Chowta | ಕ್ಯಾಪ್ಟನ್ ಬ್ರಿಜೇಶ್ ಚೌಟ (@CaptBrijesh) March 2, 2018
The BJP swept the coastal districts in the 2018 elections, winning 16 out of 19 seats in coastal Karnataka. The saffron surge was fuelled by the blood and sweat of BJP karyakarthas.
Cadres do the unthinkable after Dakshina Kannada murder
The same karyakarthas on Wednesday did the unthinkable. Angry over the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada, BJP cadres staged a rebellion of sorts, shouting slogans against the party.
Heckling BJP leaders, hurling insults at their icons, attempting to topple party state president Nalin Kumar Kateel’s car, and even releasing a phone conversation with BJYM national president Tejasvi Surya in an attempt to embarrass the party, and submitting mass resignations, cadres went all out to show their anger.
Social media is flooded with posts of disgruntled BJP workers baying for blood. For a party that prides itself on the commitment and discipline of its cadres, the BJP in Karnataka has taken a huge hit.
Never before had leaders of the BJP in Karnataka been so nervous. In short, cadres of the BJP have called out their leaders’ bluff.
“We used to complain about not being safe under the Congress government but what excuse can the government give now? It is our own government, our own people and yet we are not safe,” a BJP worker in Moodabidri told South First.
BJP Karnataka chief Nalin Kumar Kateel likely to be removed
There is a trust deficit between the cadres and leaders in the BJP. Heads must roll and one of the first is likely to be that of state president Nalin Kumar Kateel.
The anger against their own leaders is neither new nor unjustified. The killing of Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada was only the tipping point for BJP cadres, who were already on the edge after Bajrang Dal activist Harsha’s murder in Shivamogga earlier this year.
“Leaders use workers’ names to get ahead. You should pay attention to it,” Sandeep Haravinagandi, district president of the BJP Yuva Morcha, is purportedly heard warning Tejasvi Surya in a phone call recording that has now gone viral.
‘Bulldozer’, ‘encounter’, ‘terrorism’
For the BJP in Karnataka, which has never faced the brunt of its cadre’s anger, the rebellion after the murder of Praveen Nettaru in Dakshina Kannada has come as a shock and left leaders shaken.
To deflect the anger, nervous leaders are now grasping at vicious, desperate, and even violent proposals — from invoking terrorism to bulldozers, from encounters to a new police division.
“We have to teach our cadres to be more mature. Cracking down on criminals who are not from our state takes time. Just like terrorism that torments Kashmir is from Pakistan, terrorism that troubles Karnataka is centred in Kerala,” N Ravi Kumar, general secretary of the Karnataka BJP, told South First, adding that workers were the lifeline of the party.
All it takes for workers to fall in line in the BJP is one word from their leaders. Except that this time, all their anger is directed at their leaders, compelling them to look for pacification techniques bordering on viciousness.
“Islamic terrorism is a reality we should fight as a community. If you feel that bulldozers should run, we stand with you. If you think encounters are the way to go, we stand with you. Your thinking is ours too,” CT Ravi, national general secretary of the BJP, told reporters on Thursday, unabashedly calling for extrajudicial action against what he deemed “Islamic intolerance”.
“If it were the Congress government, we could have pelted stones,” Tejasvi Surya, Bengaluru South MP, is purportedly heard saying in the leaked phone conversation.
‘All this anger will fade away’
While Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra insisted he would meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah to push for a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in a midnight press conference on Wednesday announced his government’s plan to set up an independent police force to check “pre-planned murders”.
“All this anger will fade away in a week’s time. Workers are loyal to the party,” a former BJP office-bearer, who publicly called for heads to roll in the government and party, opined.
No matter how angry, agitated, miffed, disappointed or let down, the BJP worker is not going anywhere. The party knows it. The leaders know it. Even the workers know it. It is only a matter of time before all the anger against the leadership is displaced to a familiar foe.