Has Tipu Jayanti damaged the Congress’ image and political fortunes?

Will Tipu Jayanti row prove costly for the CongressAll India Radio/Twitter
news Tipu Jayanti Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 16:56

Since the Karnataka government announced the celebration of Tipu Jayanti on November 10 last year, there has been considerable debate on Tipu Sultan’s merits or lack of them. However, with the BJP strongly leading protests this year too, whether Tipu Jayanti will prove to be a costly mistake for the ruling Congress remains to be seen.

Ahead of the second year that Tipu Jayanti is being observed, the BJP went all out, projecting Tipu Sultan as a king who persecuted Kodavas and Mangalorean Catholics in southern Karnataka. For several days, the BJP staged protests across the district which were backed by social media campaigns. 

On Thursday – November 10 – it also organized a state-wide ‘black flag’ protest, led by former chief minister and party President BS Yeddyurappa, former Deputy Chief Minister R Ashok, Udupi-Chickmaglur MP Shobha Karandlaje.

On its part, the Congress party, which heads the state government, failed to counter the campaign of the BJP, even though it maintained that Tipu was a freedom fighter who fought against the British.  

Has Tipu Jayanti damaged the Congress’ image and political fortunes? The News Minute asked political scientists and here’s what they had to say:

Muzaffar Assadi, professor, Mysore University:

That is not the question you should be asking. The problem lies in calling it Tipu Jayanti. It should be called Anti-Colonial Day. Tipu did align with the French to fight the British. This must be seen alongside the fact that the British were a formidable enemy in India during that period. His anti-colonial ideology must be celebrated. This can silence the critique on and help bring about inclusive discourse on anti-colonialism.

India has always been a country that celebrates its icons, be it social reformers or political and religious leaders. If it can be argued that Tipu fought the British just to save his crown, then all wars fought against the British – including the ones fought by Krishnadevaraya (Vijayanagar king) and the great revolt of 1857 – must also be considered in the same light.

Sandeep Shastri, Pro Vice Chancellor of Jain University.

The bandwagon of jayantis reflects political choices made by various political parties over the course of many years. It is understandable to have a Gandhi Jayanti or an Ambedkar Jayanti, but one has to draw a line regarding the role of the state in patronizing various jayantis. 

In the recent past, political parties have patronized various jayantis to reflect the ideologies they wish to be associated with and the legacy of political choices they want to be known for. The moment this happens, it reaches a state of competitive jayantis.

The state has many other important bread and butter issues to focus on rather adopt individuals and events as poster-boys for their cause. The important question is if the state should legitimize these icons or should they be celebrated by the society? 

K Phaniraj, a Manipal-based writer

The issue is larger than Tipu Jayanti. People will vote for candidates who they believe are determined to improve their standard of living. 

BJP is making Tipu Jayanti a communal issue as the government’s move would help Congress in mobilizing the votes of the Dalits and the minorities. By protesting against Tipu Jayanti, the BJP is trying to drive a wedge between Dalits and minorities. 

Congress has never done well when it has been on the defensive. Also, by not countering the flak it is receiving, the Congress should have taken the Tipu Jayanti celebration to the masses and launched an aggressive campaign of its own.

The party has to step up its campaign and be more aggressive by introducing more welfare measures and try to build public opinion. BJP is trying to polarize the votes. However, Congress has to take the secular and welfare route if it has to regain strong public support.

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