Yediyurappa’s condemnation of those communalising the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a war between his supporters and detractors within his own party.

Many BJP supporters are angry with Yediyurappa but Karnataka CM has an unlikely allyFile image
news Coronavirus Tuesday, April 07, 2020 - 18:32

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa is no stranger to controversy. And the latest is over his remarks made during a television interview that are seemingly quite straightforward and befitting for a man who leads a state. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yediyurappa took a strong stand against communalising the health issue and warned those who are indulging in Muslim bashing over coronavirus. However, his own party men believe this was wrong – they say this is ‘Muslim appeasement’ by the BJP leader, and they say, #WeLostHopeBSY. 

In an interview with TV9, Yediyurappa on Monday had spoken against the targeting of Muslims over COVID-19. This is in light of a section of the public blaming the Muslim community after the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi in March emerged as an epicentre for the spread of COVID-19 in many parts of the country. The CM warned that he will not hesitate to take action against those indulging in Muslim blaming.

The extract of the video interview where Yediyurappa takes the anti-communal stand had gone viral on social media platforms on Monday, with many praising Yediyurappa for his progressive stand. But many, seemingly BJP supporters, were not happy and alleged that Yediyurappa was indulging in ‘Muslim appeasement’. 

In fact, a BJP insider said that a section of the party including active members of the state IT cell are so upset with Yediyurappa that they pushed the #WeLostHopeBSY trend online. There is also a reactionary trend – #IStandWithBSY – that many others are participating in. The online war has highlighted the divisions within the BJP – many new appointments in the social media cell were made by the BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel, who has a much more hardline Hindutva approach than CM Yediyurappa. 

However, Yediyurappa’s camp is firm in their stand. A close aide of the Chief Minister told TNM, “The CM’s statements were fashioned to protect the secular credentials of the country. A CM or a PM cannot be only a representative of a particular political party or a community. So in this event, he has spoken like a statesman should, in protecting the interest of the minority community who are being wrongly targeted.”

“Regarding the Tablighi Jamaat, there was a mistake committed by a small number of Muslims – but that cannot be made as a weapon to stigmatise the entire Muslim population. And this is the perception of the CM. He is not speaking against or for a community,” he added.

But Yediyurappa’s stand is not shared by many in the party – including his close aide Shobha Karandlaje. Incidentally, the same day when CM made the comment, the Member of Parliament falsely claimed that some attendees of the Jamaat spat on doctors at a hospital in Belagavi – a claim that was debunked.

Read: Fact check: BJP MP’s claim that Jamaat attendees spat at Belagavi hospital staff is fake

While the online war rages however, Yediyurappa has found an unlikely ally in the opposition party, Congress. Speaking with TNM, DK Shivakumar, Karnataka Congress chief and former minister, said that those trending #WeLostHopeBSY should be booked under the country’s cyber crime laws.  

“We welcome the CM’s statements. We want everyone to be treated equally, there is no virus for any particular caste or religion,” DKS said.

“The CM holding a constitutional post has sent the message that had to be sent. Today I have written to him that this should be followed in the right spirit, and a circular has to be issued to the local level. A proper direction should be given to all the police stations, wards and panchayats. This is because some sort of social boycott is being engineered by the BJP and RSS workers,” he added. 

“The IT Cell guys and other BJP party guys are behind this type of misrepresentations and they are misleading the people. I appeal to the Chief Minister to register a cyber crime case against all these people,” the Congress leader said. 

Meanwhile, the Twitter trend saw people calling for ‘intervention’ from the BJP central leadership as they thought Yediyurappa’s anti-communal stand move might cost the party electorally.

On the other hand, the trend was criticised by some – they reasoned that the IT cell should focus on the priorities of the state.

(With inputs from Prajwal Bhat)