Kumaraswamy to BJP: Don’t divide
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has accused the BJP of “alienating members of one community” and warned that its frenzied celebrations over the air strikes on Pakistan could lead to communal strife in the country.
“Distributing tea and bursting crackers on the streets, you (the BJP) are alienating members of one community and in the coming days this will lead to innocent lives being lost,” he told a party rally in Mysore late on Friday.
The Janata Dal Secular leader, who leads a coalition government in the state with ally Congress, also slammed BJP state unit chief B.S. Yeddyurappa for politicising the post-Pulwama air strikes.
BJP workers in Karnataka have been distributing tea and sweets and bursting crackers ever since Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would be released. The fighter pilot was handed over to India late on Friday.
The BJP hit back at Kumaraswamy on Saturday, saying such comments reflected the “anti-India” mindset of the Mahagathbandhan, the non-BJP alliance that is shaping up. “You are a chief minister of an Indian state & not Pakistan This statement completely exposes the anti-India mindset of #Mahaghatbandan,” the BJP state office said.
Several BJP leaders voiced objections to the chief minister’s warning of communal strife as they sought to put behind them the mess created by Yeddyurappa who had linked the air strikes to possible electoral gains in the state. Yeddyurappa had said the air strikes would help the BJP win over 22 of Karnataka’s 28 seats.
The JDS came out in support of the chief minister. “Tell me what is wrong in what Kumaraswamy said? We can already see so much of animosity on communal lines, as Sangh parivar (supporters) are openly calling those who don’t toe their line as anti-nationals,” said a JDS state functionary who didn’t want to be named.
“Neither the chief minister nor the party is acting against national interests. But whatever we do or say should not be at the cost of communal amity and peaceful coexistence,” he added.
A Congress functionary lashed out at the BJP for its attack on the chief minister. “He is right in asking people to tone down their triumphalism. We politicians need to rein in supporters from such celebrations to maintain communal harmony,” said the leader who too requested anonymity.
“We have asked our party workers not to hit the streets with celebratory fireworks and demonstrations, as this is a matter of national security and a very serious one at that,” the youth leader added.
“Our defence forces are handling the situation extremely well. We need to allow them to do their job.”
The leader pointed to how the frenzy had led to a group of alleged Sangh parivar activists forcing Karachi Bakery to cover its signboard soon after the air strikes.
The Hyderabad-based group that had recently launched an outlet in the city had to cover the word “Karachi’ after some youths barged in on the day the IAF fighter jets bombed Balakot. Police had responded fast, sorting out the issue by arresting nine youths.
The cover was removed the next morning after the police assured the establishment of protection.