While the BJP in Karnataka is banking on the “Hindu vote”, the pro-Hindutva outfits in the coastal districts of the state have now decided to come together and form a “Saffron Front”.
Their aim – to defeat the BJP. Five pro-Hindutva outfits are all set to launch a new alliance and also field 90 candidates on Monday.
The front will include Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), Shiv Sena, Sri Rama Sene, Sanatana Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sampoorna Bharat Kranti Party.
However, the candidates will contest as independents if the Election Commission does not grant permission for them to contest with the Hat symbol.
According to N Subramanya Raju, the Karnataka President of ABHM, out of the 90 candidates, ABHM will field its candidates in 30 constituencies.
“The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leaders have held talks with Sri Rama Sene’s Pramod Muthalik and also others from two other Hindu organisations. We have finalised all the plans. Other allies will also field candidates for the election,” he added.
Subramanya Raju said that the Saffron Front has also submitted a request to the EC, asking for permission to contest with the Hat symbol.
“We are expecting the EC’s reply by Monday, and if they deny permission, we will all contest as independent candidates but the Saffron Front will still remain,” he added.
Candidates from ABHM will contest elections from Mangaluru City South and Mangaluru City North and parts of coastal Karnataka, including Dakshina Kannada district.
However, BJP insiders say that such a front will not work as the BJP has deep roots in the region.
“BJP has RSS backing and there is no other pro-Hindu organisation bigger than RSS in the coastal districts. Even if they do win, they may win a handful of seats,” the source added.
Speaking to TNM, the ABHM’s candidate from Mangaluru City South, Dharmendra, lashed out against the BJP.
“How can BJP determine that we will lose? The people will decide whom they should vote for. People from our organisation have been helping people without any political agenda for so long. Now that we have decided to contest the elections, the people will have another choice of candidate to vote for. The people will vote for the candidate who will help them, not people who make false promises,” Dharmendra said.
According to Subramanya, the Saffron Front believes that the BJP has failed to propagate the Hindutva ideology in the state.
“All Indians, including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jains are Hindus. They all converted to other religions but they were Hindus. We (ABHM) had believed that the BJP would protect Hindu ideology. Both BJP and the Congress are two faces of the same coin. They did not protect Hindutva,” Raju said.
A leader with the ABHM, who is contesting this time around in one of the coastal districts, told TNM that Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik is the brainchild of the Saffron Front.
For Pramod Muthalik, it is a personal battle with the BJP and he has had a bone to pick with the saffron party since 2014. Muthalik was inducted into the party on March 24, 2014 at 11 am. He was expelled from the party on the same day at 4 pm.
This was an insult that Muthalik has not forgotten and ever since, he has been formulating plans to defeat the BJP.
In 2005, he allied with the Shiv Sena. The Sena is planning to field its candidates in the Mumbai-Karnataka region, especially Belagavi this time, sources say.
“Back then, there were clashes between the Marathi speaking people and the Kannada speaking population in Belagavi (2005). That was instigated by the Sangh Parivar. This time around too, they may do the same thing, but now that we are allied and have formed a new front, it will be an alternative for Hindus,” he added.