Amidst the anti-incumbency wave, in a major embarrassment to the BJP in the old-Mysuru region, a section of local party workers allegedly ran a “Go Back Ashoka” online and offline campaign against Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka in Mandya on Thursday, 27 January.
On condition of anonymity, an office-bearer from Mandya’s BJP unit told South First, “A faction led by BJP state executive member Dr Siddaramaiah allegedly carried out the ‘Go Back Ashoka’ campaign to oppose the party high command’s decision on appointing Ashoka as the Mandya district in-charge minister.”
The local BJP leaders were apparently unhappy with the party high command for replacing Excise Minister K Gopalaiah as the district in-charge minister.
The Basavaraj Bommai-led Karnataka government appointed a new district minister for Mandya on Wednesday.
Opposing this, a faction put up posters of “Go Back Ashoka” across Mandya city on Thursday.
“The local leaders and party workers allege that Ashoka indulges in adjustment politics with the JD(S) in Mandya. The party workers worked hard across the district under the leadership of Gopalaiah, and were confident of emerging victorious in a few seats in the region. This unexpected decision from the government has not gone down well with certain local leaders,” elaborated a BJP leader.
At present, the BJP is in power in only one out of the seven Assembly segments in Mandya.
It managed to make inroads in the district as Minister Narayana Gowda, who defected from the JD(S), won the Krishnarajpet segment in the 2019 Assembly by-polls.
ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಕಾರ್ಯಕರ್ತರೇ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ನಾಯಕರಿಗೆ “ಗೋ ಬ್ಯಾಕ್” ಎನ್ನುತ್ತಿರುವ ಪ್ರಕರಣ ಹೆಚ್ಚುತ್ತಿದೆ
◆ಹಿಂದೆ @nalinkateel ಕಾರು ಅಲ್ಲಾಡಿಸಿ ಗೋ ಬ್ಯಾಕ್ ಎಂದಿದ್ದರು.
◆ನಂತರ ಗೃಹಸಚಿವರ ಮನೆ ಮೇಲೆ ದಾಳಿ ನಡೆಸಿದ್ದರು.
◆ಈಗ @RAshokaBJP ಅವರ ಸರದಿ!#BJPvsBJP ಕದನ ಎಂಬುದು ಕಾಳ್ಗಿಚ್ಚಿನಂತೆ, ಬಿಜೆಪಿಯನ್ನು ನಾಶ ಮಾಡಿಯೇ ಶಮನ ಆಗುವುದು! pic.twitter.com/meZ1BAtSev
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) January 26, 2023
Objections to R Ashoka’s appointment
The local leaders have openly expressed dissent to Ashoka, who is also a senior and dominant Vokkaliga leader, being given the responsibility of the Mandya district.
Vokkaligas will be the deciding factor in Mandya. This community has the lion’s share of votes when compared to other castes and communities.
Dr Siddaramaiah told reporters: “We are making all the efforts to ensure that the Central and state government programmes reach the last person in the district. The organisation is strengthening at the grassroots level. The party workers are toiling day and night to strengthen the cadre for the upcoming assembly polls.”
He added: “This has raised fear among the Opposition leaders, mainly in the Congress and the JD(S). When the party is performing well, how good is it to change the district in-charge minister at this juncture?”
On condition of anonymity, a party leader said: “Ashoka has a history of indulging in adjustment politics in Mandya to ensure his victory in the Padmanabanagar Assembly constituency. He used his political and muscle power to replace Gopalaiah.”
This leader said the BJP’s decision to put him in charge of Mandya had created confusion among the local party leaders and workers.
“If the party does not revoke its decision, then it might face consequences in the upcoming Assembly polls,” he cautioned.
Ashoka denies dissent
Ashoka, meanwhile, has denied the allegations that a faction of party leaders opposed his appointment as the Mandya district in-charge minister.
On the “Go Back Ashoka” campaign, the revenue minister said: “It is not the culture of our party. The party workers gave me a rousing welcome. No other district in-charge minister has been given such a welcome in the state.”
He added: “I don’t know whether the Congress or the JD(S) has carried out this campaign. I have come here to take the party as one team. I have also held talks about the local leaders from other parties switching loyalty to the BJP. I will bring rampant changes in the district over the next month.”
To a question on whether the Mandya district unit is a divided house, Ashoka said: “There is no dissent in the party. All the leaders have spoken to me. I am in touch with everyone in the district.”
He added: “The Opposition parties are in fear as I have come to Mandya. The Opposition might have provoked such a campaign against me. The party is united and there is no dissent within the cadre.”
Defending the high command’s decision, BJP state general secretary and MLC N Ravikumar told South First: “There is no dissent within the party. Ashoka is a senior minister in the cabinet. He knows in and out of the politics in Mandya. The district leaders will accept his leadership.”
However, he refrained from commenting on the change of Mandya district in-charge minister ahead of the Assembly polls.
BJP workers fight on Hassan streets
A video of purportedly two BJP workers fighting on the streets in the Arsikere town in the Hassan district has embarrassed the party.
Hassan’s BJP unit has served notice to a party worker for taking the law into his hands.
In the video, a BJP leader is apparently seen thrashing a worker from his own party on the streets. The Opposition accused the saffron cadre of not having unity within the party.
#BJPvsBJP ಕಚ್ಚಾಟವು ಅಕ್ಷರಶಃ ಬೀದಿ ಕಾಳಗವಾಗಿ ಪರಿಣಮಿಸಿದೆ.
ಹಾಸನದಲ್ಲಿ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಮುಖಂಡ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಕಾರ್ಯಕರ್ತನನ್ನೇ ಅಟ್ಟಾಡಿಸಿ ಮಾರಣಾಂತಿಕ ಹಲ್ಲೆ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದಾನೆ.
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) January 26, 2023
Confirming the incident, BJP district president Suresh told South First: “The duo fought over personal issues. It is said that the victim, who is a rowdy sheeter, used to send derogatory statements and texts against the party in the WhatsApp groups.”
He added: “This enraged one of our party workers, who attacked him. He should not have taken the law into his hands. We have served notice to him. The party does not accept this kind of behaviour. These kinds of incidents will be an embarrassment to the party, ahead of the polls,” stated Suresh.