Sangolli Rayanna and the rise of caste heroes

While the 18th century warrior is being appropriated by netas, a Rayanna convention in Belagavi today has led to sparring by BJP leaders

Published: 06th December 2016 02:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th December 2016 05:11 AM   |  A+A-



Express News Service

BENGALURU: Invoking regional and historical figures has become a political agenda in recent times. Not to be left behind, both the BJP and Congress have been resurrecting Sangolli Rayanna, the 18th century warrior and freedom fighter of the Kuruba community from Belagavi, in an effort to gather mass support. 

The statue of Sangolli Rayanna that was
unveiled by BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa at
Devaraj Urs Circle in Bengaluru  

If K S Eshwarappa has formed a brigade in the name of the regional hero and vocalised his intentions to expand his base, Siddaramaiah has quietly commemorated the warrior, renamed the city railway station and also made way for erecting a memorial for him. 

But it has caused ego hassles between B S Yeddyurappa and Eshwarappa, with the former dismissing any party link to the brigade while his bete noire is trying to keep the brigade alive. On Sunday, in a veiled message to Eshwarappa, national secretary Muralidhar Rao warned BJP leaders of stern action if they attended the Rayanna convention in Belagavi on Tuesday.

A decade ago, the Sangolli Rayanna Hitarakshana Samiti was formed by Eshwarappa (when he was a minister in the JD(S)-BJP coalition government). The Samiti has now taken the form of Sangolli Rayanna Brigade.

In the background of the AHINDA plank, Siddaramaiah, who has emerged as the leader of the backward classes, too has invoked Rayanna. Analysts say this is the rise of identity crisis and caste politics in Karnataka with the two major political parties latching on to regional heroes to garner votes in the 2018 state elections.

They add that by making efforts to reach out to the backward classes and the OBCs, Eshwarappa is hoping to break Siddu’s firm hold over the AHINDA group comprising minorities, OBCs and dalits, and change the political equations in the next Assembly elections.

Media analyst K S Achyuthan explains, “For the Congress, this is a deviation as they have always invoked national figures, usually Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru. With Congress losing power in most states, Siddaramaiah is the tallest leader in Karnataka. So, he has been indulging in emotional symbolism as well as clever politics.”

According to some political analysts, both are vying for the support of Kurubas and OBCs. At the same time, it shows how regional identity has gained prominence in Karnataka and how national parties can no longer force their hegemony on regional leaders.

Academic, Kannada playwright and poet Dr K Y Narayanswamy says there are two faces to this phenomenon. “The power bargaining in democracy has become an obvious occurrence. Earlier, we had mass leaders who buried their caste identity, but nowadays, caste has come to the forefront for achieving political aspirations,” he says.

Political analyst Prof Muzzafar Assadi, Political Science Department, University of Mysore, says invoking Rayanna will not bring any political dividend. “Sangolli Rayanna is not a figure who will make much difference to the caste equations. Siddaramaiah does not need any icon as he has already done his social engineering. Whatever political dividends he had to gain has already come from AHINDA. In fact, he has followed Devaraj Urs by bringing all marginalised communities on one social platform through his programmes, unlike Eshwarappa who has an identity crisis. He is trying to reclaim his space within his own party but, at the same time, talks about AHINDA and HINDA. Kurubas will go with Siddaramaiah, and not Eshwarappa.”

Achyuthan, however, says Eshwarappa is using the Rayanna card with the implicit backing of the BJP top leadership. 

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