‘Not About Hijab or Halal. Our Own State Govt Did Not…’: RSS Cadre on BJP Performance in Coastal K’taka


Around a week since the Karnataka election results, distinctly different scenes are playing out in the Congress and the BJP. The former is trying to analyse the political ramifications of making Siddaramaiah the Chief Minister, while RSS-BJP seniors are busy dissecting how the Hindutva plank failed in the coastal Karnataka region.

Despite the smooth working equation between BL Santosh, the general secretary of the BJP, and Dattatreya Hosabale, the general secretary of the RSS — both from the Sangh pedigree and the region of Mysore – the saffron party’s overall vote-share in coastal Karnataka almost halved in many seats. The number of seats also took a plunge as the BJP’s tally of 17 seats in 2018 went gone down to 13 seats this time. The coastal belt of Karnataka includes three districts and has 19 Assembly seats across the region.

Of the 19 Assembly seats in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts, the BJP lost two seats in Uttara Kannada and one in Dakshina Kannada. According to News18’s analysis of the vote-share, the BJP has gone down by at least 20% to 40% in vote share even in the seats it won.

Excessive Drop in Vote Share

Dakshina Kannada, which has been a fortress of the RSS-BJP for decades, saw an unusual slump in BJP vote share even in the seats the party won. In Dakshina Kannada seats like Belthangady, the BJP’s vote share nosedived from 82% in 2018 to 53% in 2023, even though the party managed to win the seat.

In Moodabidri, known as one of the strongholds of the RSS-BJP combine, the saffron party’s vote share went down to 56% from 76.19% in 2018. In Sullia, the BJP vote share hit an all-time low of 57% from 89% in 2018. The BJP had been winning the seat by a huge margin for the last three Assembly elections.

The party lost Puttur to Congress in the district. Hindus constitute around 72% of the voters here, while Muslims total around 23%. The BJP recorded a vote share of 82.47% in 2018 elections here, but this year it dropped to 23%.

The RSS is said to be disappointed with the result as the organization is most active on the ground in coastal Karnataka. It has suffered losses, as many of its volunteers were murdered in the area and it has been in constant conflict with the now-banned PFI in the region.

Of the six seats in Uttara Kannada, the BJP won two — Yellapur and Kumta. The Congress won the rest four — Sirsi, Karwar, Haliyal and Bhatkal. In Dakshina Kannada, it won in six seats — Moodbidri, Bantwal, Sullia, Mangaluru City South, Mangaluru City North, and Belthangady. The Congress won Puttur and Mangalore.

‘Not About Halal-Hijab, But Insecurity’

A senior RSS functionary told News18 that the election result was “not a failure of hijab-halal issues, which are now being portrayed as the primary cause of the defeat”.

“The issues related to hijab and halal were nothing unusual. These were relevant issues that were raised and questioned. It was unfortunate that the government, which was our own, did not really stand by our Swayamsevaks, our members. They fought a lone battle against the fundamentalists and militants of PFI.”

Significantly, the murder of Praveen Nettaru, an RSS member and BJYM leader, was the tipping point for the RSS. The resentment among local BJP and RSS members against the government ran high.

“Dozens of our young volunteers were literally butchered, some were grievously injured saving our religious values. Their families were not taken care of by the government. We, from the Sangha, and the locals managed to somehow run their families, bringing some relief to them. Some of the murder cases have been going on for decades, the witnesses turned hostile too. The government did not do anything. Our young men felt insecure,” the functionary quoted above said further.

“In many seats where Hindus have absolute majority, the BJP’s vote share dropped by 30% to 40%. In some, the BJP has lost. Isn’t this abnormal or unusual for a region like coastal Karnataka? Anyone who understands the region will look at it with grave concern. Our workers did not go out, they lost confidence,” said another senior functionary based out of the coastal belt in Karnataka.

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