Why did the BJP want Pramod Muthalik in the party, and why they threw him out? Naveen Soorinje tracks Muthalik's rise

Voices Thursday, June 05, 2014 - 05:30
By Naveen Soorinje On March 23, founder of the Sri Rama Sene Pramod Muthalik said that despite his opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party, he had joined the party with the sole intention of making Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India. That dream was short-lived. Within a few hours of his admission into the party, the BJP said that his membership would be cancelled. Even after the BJP announced Narendra Modi as its Prime Ministerial candidate on September 13, 2013, Pramod Muthalik remained a critic of the BJP and on March 10, 2014, he announced that Sri Rama Sene-backed candidates would contest the Lok Sabha polls in six constituencies. He himself would be in the fray in Dharwad, where the BJP’s Karnataka president Prahlad Joshi is also contesting. Thirteen days after he announced his list of candidates, enlightenment dawned: Narendra Modi should become the prime minister. And therefore, he himself joined the BJP. Announcing the names of the candidates, he had said: “Sri Rama Sene is contesting from these 6 constituencies to make Narendra Modi the prime minister.” But when he joined the BJP he sang a different tune: “Hindu votes must not be split”. It is unclear what has now happened to the remaining five candidates. Did money change hands? There are rumours that a lot of money had changed hands to get Pramod Muthalik to throw in his lot with the BJP. It was for BJP state president Prahlad Joshi who is also contesting from Dharwad that Muthalik’s support was most crucial. When he was asked this question during the press conference on Sunday, he walked off in a huff, but not before retorting: “I am a sanyasi. I don’t need money.” If it is true, then this wouldn’t be the first time he is using Modi’s name to make a quick buck. The first time this allegation was made by the BJP itself. And it was none other than Dharwad City Corporation president Lingaraj Patil (BJP). On September 8, 2013, the Sri Rama Sene and the Hindu Janajagrati Samiti organised a rally in Dharwad where they formed a “Modi-Muthlik Brigade” after the fashion of the “NaMo Brigade”. On November 9, Patil and Joshi held a press conference alleging that the organization had collected Rs. 100 per head from people who attended the rallies which had posters saying: “Modi for nation, Muthalik for the state”. Patil even went so far as to make scathing remarks about Muthalik during the press conference: “Those who do not have the capability to make a living out of any useful employment, have resorted to making a quick buck either in the name of god, or extorting money to back a newly floated political party by selling stickers worth Rs. 5 at a price of Rs. 100. Sri Rama Sene workers have introduced themselves as supporters of Narendra Modi and Pramod Muthalik and are extracting money from anyone and everyone ranging from passersby on the street to small-time businessmen, for supposedly wanting to make Narendra Modi the prime minister.” How then, did the u-turn happen? A hint can be found in Muthalik’s own words. On being asked (during the press conference on Sunday) whether he was blackmailing the BJP, Muthalik said that he did not want the Hindu votes to get split. However, sources say that it was Joshi who feared that the Hindu votes would be split if Sri Rama Sene backed candidates were in the fray. Who is Muthalik? Muthalik’s full name is Pramod Muthalik Desai. His father was a landlord in Hukkeri in Belgaum district, where the family was thought of as well-off. With several members of his family being Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh supporters, his house was almost like an RSS shakha. Back then, he was known as “Yelu S S”, A pun on the abbreviation RSS. In Kannada aar means 6, and elu means 7. He got the nickname because it was joked that he was more RSS than the RSS itself. After he completed his degree he joined the RSS as a full-time activist without looking for a job, or getting married. He toured the state, spreading the RSS ideology. In Mysore, he was put in charge of the Kishore Vibhag, or the children’s wing to tell stories to children as he was considered to be a calm and patient person. From the RSS, he moved on to the Vishwa Hindu Parishat and from there, he was deputed to the Bajrang Dal. He was not longer Muthalik; he now became Muthalik Ji, began to be seen in public spaces. It was around this time that his characteristic aggression began to appear in his speeches. He was then promoted to the post of Convenor for Dakshina Bharath Pranth in 1993. His claims that it was his speeches that were bringing in the votes that got BJP MLAs elected,invited the RSS’ ire. As a result, senior leaders began to sideline him to an extent that made it impossible for him to continue in the RSS. Founding the Shri Rama Sene After leaving the RSS, he founded the Shri Rama Sene in 2006. Founding the Sene, he said that the RSS was using Hindutva as a political tool, but he himself espoused true Hindutva. He strongly believed that opposing women’s freedom and progressive ideas, was true Hindutva worked towards the spread of Manu’s ideology. It was an extension of this very ideology that made Sri Rama Sene activists assault young women when they were spending time at the Amnesia pub in Mangalore. Several of them including Muthalik were later arrested for the assault. This was the golden age for Muthalik. The national media began to seek his statements the way they pursued national leaders. By opposing Valentine’s Day, assaulting couples celebrating birthdays in hotels, and many other assaults of this type in Dakshina Kannada district, Muthalik became successful in building the Sri Rama Sene as a Hindu organization that was an alternative to the Bajrang Dal. Around this time, A Subramanyeshwar Rao was posted as the Superintendent of Police in Dakshina Kannada and he was successful in reining in the activities of the Sri Rama Sene. He ensured that the police filed FIRs when such assaults happened, and booked the perpetrators under charges of sexual assault and dacoity. In the midst of all this, the “Pink chaddi campaign” was launched by a group of women, causing quite an embarrassment to Muthalik by sending used pink underwear to Muthalik’s offices and house. All this led to a significant drop in popularity of the Sene, and Muthalik’repertoire was reduced to making anti-Muslim speeches, mostly in the northern districts of Karnataka. Why was Amnesia targeted when there were several pubs in Mangalore? There have always been allegations that Muthalik was using Hindutva merely as a tool to make money. Even when Amnesia was targeted it raised suspicions that an extortion racket was behind the attack. In the days after the attack, the owner of Amnesia had stated that a week before the attack, Sri Rama Sene activists had approached him and asked him give the Sene the contract of providing security to the pub. Because he refused, the attack occurred, he had said. When this assault had happened, I was a reporter in Mangalore with a Kannada newspaper called Karavali Ale and several sources confirmed that that the security contracts of several pubs and bars in Mangalore were indeed given to the Sri Rama Sene. Wherever the Sri Rama Sene had the security contract, women could forget about Hindutva and drink and dance… Later, the joint sting done by Tehelka and Headlines Today exposed that the Sri Rama Sene was ready to orchestrate violence and riots if they were paid to do it. A statement to this effect made by Muthalik has been recorded by the journalists who conducted the sting operation. They posed as businessmen who wanted to obtain publicity and asked the Rama Sene to instigate an unnecessary controversy. Muthalik agreed to do it. The sting provided proof that the assaults carried out in the name of protection of culture were nothing but an extortion racket. Will Prahlad Joshi be made to pay the price? Muthalik has come and gone, as far as the BJP is concerned. But the larger question is what happens to Prahlad Joshi who took the step to bring Muthalik in, even without consulting the central leadership or the RSS? Joshi wanted to ensure his win. He brought a goon into the party, what does that make him? Naveen Soorinje is a senior political correspondent at BTV, yet-to-be launched Kannada news channel. (This is a translated version, originally written in Kannada) The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.