BJP vs Congress: Who will get the beef recipe right in Karnataka polls?
The intention of BJP is to provoke Muslim voices in the Congress to speak up and then say the ruling party speaks solely for the minorities.
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The electoral battle for Karnataka could well be mistaken for the latest season of "MasterChef Karnataka". What else explains the obsession of both the Congress and the BJP to reduce the political battle to all things culinary? At a time when the man on the street is grappling with bread and butter issues, the political cooks are serving him beef biryani instead.
The B-word was introduced into the Kannada electoral lexicon by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who many in the BJP believe is the man who could ensure distribution of laddoos on verdict day in May 2018.
He slammed his Karnataka counterpart Siddaramaiah, mocking his Hindu self, deriding his choice to consume beef despite his religious identity.
The Congress hit back with a video that spoke of how Yogi is a recipe that the BJP has prepared to stir trouble in Karnataka. The video made references to the criminal cases against Yogi and the BJP was not amused.
Plagiarism is the name of the game so a week later, the BJP too chose the same culinary metaphor to show Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Congress working president Dinesh Gundu Rao as chefs, out to prepare beef biryani. The ingredients in this case, according to the makers of the video, included "illegal beef from a slaughterhouse", "rotten rice" given as part of the PDS, the inability to solve the Cauvery and Mahadayi river water sharing crisis, killings of Hindu youths and alleged corruption in the building of a steel flyover in Bengaluru. But the real reason behind calling it "beef biryani" was to stress the appeasement of the minorities under Siddaramaiah.
On Monday, the Congress beefed up its rhetoric by expanding the BJP to "Beef Janata Party", inspired from Gabbar Singh Tax, perhaps. The attempt was to expose the hypocrisy of the BJP which adopts different positions on consumption of beef in different states. For example, while it does not breathe a word about its anti-beef position in a beef-consuming Meghalaya that goes to polls next month, it wants to put the Congress on the mat in Karnataka by making it a poll issue. The video also spoke of Goa that under BJP's Manohar Parrikar wants to import beef and UP's BJP MLA Sangeet Som, who reportedly runs a meat processing unit.
The reason for the BJP raising the decibel levels over its love for the cow goes back five years, when the party was in power in Karnataka. In 2010, the then BJP government had passed the Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill. Siddaramaiah, then in the Opposition had dramatically torn a copy of the Bill, accusing Yeddyurappa of behaving like "Hitler's regime" and "imposing a vegetarian" culture on the people of Karnataka. His argument was that by banning beef, mutton would become prohibitive.
Three years later, when Siddaramaiah became CM, one of his first decisions was to overturn the beef ban. The 1964 Cattle Preservation Act was restored under which slaughter of cows, calves and buffaloes was banned.
The Yeddyurappa Bill had banned the slaughter of bulls, bullocks and imposed harsh punishments for violators of the law. By making beef a poll issue, the BJP wants to jog the memory of voters on Siddaramaiah's conduct, hoping to sway the vegetarian Kannadiga and the orthodox Hindu on to its side.
This is because even while standing his ground on his right to decide what food will be on his plate, Siddaramaiah has emphasised that he is as good a Hindu as any of the BJP leaders. "There is both Siddha and Rama in my name,'' he declared, raising the spectre of a Gujarat-like temple run in Karnataka by the Congress led by Rahul Gandhi. The Congress, having seen the results of running a Hindu-ised Gujarat campaign, wants to ensure the BJP does not pitch its tent as the sole spokesperson of the Hindus in Karnataka.
The BJP's assessment is that controversial planks like beef ban will find traction in pockets of Karnataka, especially the communally sensitive coastal belt. The intention also is to provoke the Muslim voices in the Congress to speak up, so that it will give the BJP a chance to label the ruling party as batting solely for the minorities.
So far, the Congress has ensured it does not fall into the trap, trying instead to pick holes in the BJP's policy of different strokes in different states. But what is certain is that the beef recipe will only bring a divisive election on the menu and that won't do Karnataka any good.