Ground Report: It’s not just BJP vs Congress, it’s also a clash of religions in historic Vijayapura City

Differential treatment by the sitting MLA has brought a communal angle to the Assembly election in the North Karnataka constituency.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 29, 2023 | 8:30 AMUpdated Apr 29, 2023 | 1:04 PM

Ground Report: It’s not just BJP vs Congress, it’s also a clash of religions in historic Vijayapura City

With the Karnataka Assembly elections 2023 just days away, South First is bringing you ground reports from key constituencies. This series brings you voices from the ground, the mood of the voters, and issues that matter — as well as those that don’t — as people make up their minds on who they will elect in the upcoming Assembly elections.

Part of the oath an MLA takes goes, “…I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter.”

Many in Bijapur City felt that its MLA Basanagouda R Patil Yatnal did not “faithfully discharge the duty” entrusted to him.

Equality took a backseat when the MLA reportedly focused more on Hindu-populated areas, ignoring the localities where Muslims are large in numbers.

Yatnal’s differential treatment has not gone down well with the voters. Vasanth Honmode, a resident of the Jumma Masjid locality, blamed the MLA for taking up development works only in Hindu-populated localities in Vijayapura (Bijapur) City.

Vijayapura means City of Victory. However, Yatnal’s reported partisan stand has failed the city.

“MLA Yatnal completely neglected the Muslim-populated areas. He has hardly carried out any development works in such areas,” Honmode fumed.

“From poor roads to street lights to drinking water connection to drainage, many issues are dogging these areas. They have been remaining unaddressed because Yatnal hates Muslims,” he alleged.

Picture of neglect, discrimination

Upholding the sovereignty and integrity of India — a country with diverse cultures and religions — is part of the MLA’s sworn responsibilities. The voters, however, painted a different picture of Yatnal.

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Vasanth Honmode accuses BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal of ignoring Muslim-dominated areas. (South First)

“After winning the 2018 Assembly polls, he made an open statement that the people (referring to Muslims) wearing skullcaps and burqas and men with beards should not approach his office asking for development and other works,” Honmode claimed.

He said the Jumma Masjid and its surrounding areas have been neglected. He opined that the city needs a master plan. but political parties neglect the areas fearing loss of votes.

The BJP is not alone in neglecting these areas. Honmode said the previous Congress MLA Makbul Bhagwan, too, turned a blind eye to the Muslim areas’ development needs.

“These areas have remained undeveloped for more than a decade,” he alleged.

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Mixed reaction

Former Union minister Yatnal’s reported incendiary communal remarks, mainly against Muslims, evoked mixed responses from the voters. A few supported Yatnal, while others opposed his inflammatory statements.

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Vijayapura City at a glance. (South First)

“Yatnal should not have made statements against any religion or community. One should not hurt the sentiments of any religion,” businessman Rohan Bagli told South First.

“However, he has carried out several development works, which benefited all,” he added.

It was not just Bagli alone who found fault with the MLA’s communal remarks. Several other Hindus, too, expressed similar views.

Several Hindus alleged that Muslims harassed traders from their community when the constituency had a Congress MLA between 2013-18. It led to the animosity between the two communities, they claimed.

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City of Monuments

Vijayapura, also known as Bijapur, is a historic city located in North Karnataka. It is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and magnificent monuments, which reflect the influence of various dynasties that had ruled the region.

Gol Gumbaz. (Meesanjay/Wikimedia Commons)

Gol Gumbaz. (Meesanjay/Wikimedia Commons)

Tourism is a major contributor to the local economy. Vijayapura is also known as the “City of Monuments” as there are over 80 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-recognised heritage sites.

One of the most prominent tourism destinations in the city is the Gol Gumbaz, which is the second-largest dome in the world. The monument was built during the reign of the Adil Shahi dynasty in the 17th century and is an example of Islamic architecture.

Other notable heritage sites are Ibrahim Roza, Gagan Mahal, Sangeet Mahal, and Jumma Masjid. The city also has several beautiful parks and gardens.

Apart from its historical and cultural significance, Vijayapura is also known for its scenic beauty, with several monuments offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Several hotels, restaurants, and shops cater to the needs of the tourists visiting the city.

The local economy of Vijayapura is primarily driven by agriculture, with sugarcane, cotton, and sorghum being the major crops.

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Home truths

Vijayapura has witnessed rapid growth over the past decade. However, the lack of tourism infrastructure development and drinking water are the two main issues the heritage city has been facing.

Even seven years after a project was launched to provide uninterrupted drinking water, authorities are yet to implement it fully.

The state government launched the drinking water project at an estimated cost of ₹156 crore in 2016. With several delays in completing the works, the project cost has surged to ₹189 crore.

The government entrusted the Karnataka State Water Development Board (KSWDB) with the implementation of the project. The authorities, however, completed only 80 percent of the work.

Even areas where the works have been completed face shortages of drinking water.

“The drinking water supply is pathetic in the city. In summer, the authorities supply water once in five days. In some areas, it goes up to once in nine to 10 days,” Chandrashekar Patil, a businessman, and resident of Pulakeshi Nagar, told South First.

“The elected representatives assure us of completing the project but it has already missed several deadlines. Despite the city having sufficient water sources, we don’t have a regular supply,” he stated.

“The sitting MLA has set up water-purifier plants in many areas,” Patil added.

Bagli chipped in saying that lack of coordination is the major issue. “Over the past five years, around 60 percent of development works have been carried out in the segment. However, there is a lack of coordination between the departments,” he said.

“Even waste management is poor. The city corporation officials seldom respond to our complaints,” he added.

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Untapped tourism potential

Vijayapura lacks proper tourism infrastructure, promotion, and facilities.

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Historian Abdulgani Imaratwale. (South First)

“Bijapur has several major monuments  — tombs and mahals,” historian Abdulgani Imaratawale said while lamenting the inadequate tourism development.

“The city should have services meeting international standards. Over the past 10 years, tourism has been declining for various reasons, including lack of basic infrastructure,” he said, drawing attention to the damaged roads.

“Efforts should be made to set up an ASI circle or its sub-division office in the city. The government has to announce special packages or programmes for the development of heritage monuments and tourism infrastructure,” Imaratawale urged.

Several people echoed the historian’s sentiments.

The city has good education facilities. There are two medical colleges, one engineering college, and a government-run ITI.

Vijayapura’s district government hospital is one of the top-ranked state-run hospitals in Karnataka. However, for major health issues, people travel to Solapur or Miraj in Maharashtra.

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It’s BJP vs Congress — and Hindu vs Muslim

The Bijapur City Assembly constituency is one of the “sensitive” segments in Karnataka.

Since the 2018 Assembly elections, the political rivalry is not only confined to BJP and Congress but has also been fought on religious lines, mainly between Hindus and Muslims.

However, the city has not witnessed any communal violence between the two religions.

Local political commentators opined that Yatnal’s communal remarks have made elections a contest between religions.

In the past three elections, the BJP won the seat twice in 2008 and 2018, and Congress won it once in 2013. Yatnal had contested on a JD(S) ticket in 2013. However, he returned to the saffron camp in April 2018.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, Yatnal defeated Congress’s Abdul Hameed Mushrif by 6,413 votes. These two are again seeking the mandate.

The JD(S), which had lost its deposit in the last Assembly polls, has fielded party worker Bandenawaz Mahabari.

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The Yatnal effect

“Elections were fought based on political lines until Yatnal contested as the BJP candidate in 2018. Vijayapura had never witnessed political battles on religious lines before 2018. This election is between the two religions too.” political analyst Firoz Rozindar told South First.

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Political Analyst Firoz Rozindar claims that elections are fought on is being fought on religious lines in Vijayapura. (South First)

“To consolidate Hindu votes, Yatnal made controversial remarks targeting Muslims. In a way, it has made Muslims call for unity. They will support the Congress, while the Hindus will mostly favour the BJP,” he said.

Rozindar further said that the Lingayat Banajiga community is upset with Yatnal after he made certain derogatory remarks against them.

“It might have an impact to a certain extent. Both the national parties are making efforts to woo the Dalit and OBC voters, who play a key role in the segment,” Rozindar, also a senior journalist, explained.

“Yatnal has carried out many development works, specifically improving the city’s infrastructure. However, he completely neglected the Muslim-dominant areas,” he said,

“Those (Muslim) areas have hardly witnessed any development in the past five years. There is anger among the Muslims. This is a close fight between Yatnal and Mushrif. However, if the Hindus unite, then Yatnal will have an edge over his rival,” Rozindar opined.

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Caste equations

Lingayats, Muslims, Brahmins, Marathas and SCs, and STs are the dominant castes in Vijayapura City.

The constituency has more than 1.2 lakh Hindu votes, while Muslims are around 1.09 lakh. SCs and STs have around 38,000 votes.

“The people here now vote only on religious lines,” Rozindar added.

The Bijapur City segment has 2.64 lakh voters: 1.31 lakh men and 1.33 lakh women.