PUTTUR:The Congress unofficially announced its intentions to woo Hindus back to its fold by inaugurating the Bharatiya Hindu Parishat (BHP) here on Wednesday. For the record, the party is not linked to the VHP-like outfit, but observers say the idea is to test the waters in the coastal region, where significant numbers of Hindus have gravitated towards the BJP.
A brainchild of Hemanath Shetty, Puttur Block Congress president, the BHP is expected to counter the aggressive right-wing groups active along the coast.
The launch, at a wedding hall, had the fervour of a religious ceremony, with the chanting of Vishnu Sahasranama and Ganesha hymns. Party leaders also performed a Satyanarayana puja.
Congress workers say the party has neglected the majority community for a long time and the number of Hindus joining its cadres has seriously come down in recent times.
Urimajalu Rama Bhat, Karnataka’s first MLA from the Sangh Parivar, was elected from Puttur in the 1970s. Since then, the BJP has won this constituency many times, and sent leaders like D V Sadananda Gowda and Shakuntala Shetty to the Vidhana Soudha. Even in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP gets a massive vote share from Puttur. “We cannot shut ourselves to the majority and hope to do well in the elections,” a Congress worker said.
“Hinduism is no one’s property, and we shouldn’t be afraid of other parties that work on the Hindutva plank,” Hemanath Shetty told the media outside the puja venue. “The BHP was started under my leadership and it is not connected with the Congress in any way.”
Kodichal Ibrahim, senior vice-president and president-elect of the Dakshina Kannada District Congress Committee, suspects an ulterior motive.
“I see a larger plan... Hemanath Shetty may join the BJP later. He is preparing the ground,” he told Express.
Rama Bhat, veteran politician, believes the Congress is facing a curious dilemma. “If the party tries to go closer to the Hindus, its traditional Muslim voters could distance themselves,” he told Express.
“It is doomed if it goes closer to the Hindus and doomed if it doesn’t,” he said.
Senior Congress leader B Janardhana Poojary had recently supported the idea of a Hindu ginger group within the Congress to counter the BJP.
“Whoever said the Congress is an anti-Hindu party knows nothing about the party or its politics. We are secular and that does not mean we are anti-Hindu,” he had said.
CM Defends BHP
Bengaluru: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, a strong critic of right-wing Hindu politics, on Wednesday defended the launch of the BHP. He told reporters the Congress would not, however, dilute its commitment to secular values. “It has been practising secularism by treating all communities equally, and that includes Hindus,” he said.