#NewsBytesExplainer: Why is BJP hyping Tipu Sultan's death in Karnataka
Amid the intense election campaigning in poll-bound Karnataka, a new controversy concerning the death of 18th-century ruler Tipu Sultan has erupted. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already made it a major electoral issue by pitting Hindutva icon VD Savarkar against the Myrusu ruler. Digging this up has supposedly some additional political motivations ahead of the Assembly elections. Here's more on the debate.
Why does this story matter?
- The controversy comes as campaigning in Karnataka ramps up in preparation for the 2023 Assembly elections.
- Many BJP leaders, including its state chief Nalin Kateel, have made contentious remarks regarding Tipu Sultan.
- He sparked outrage earlier this year when he stated that Tipu Sultan's descendants should be "sent home."
- Another party leader, KS Eshwarappa, referred to the Indian Muslim ruler as a "Muslim gunda."
How did the controversy begin?
Recently, the BJP wooed the politically influential Vokkaliga community by reiterating their claims that Tipu Sultan was "killed by two Vokkaliga chieftains, Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda, rather than the British or the Maratha army." Despite historians disputing the assertion, several BJP leaders, including Vokkaliga leaders CT Ravi, the party's national General Secretary, and ministers Ashwath Narayan and Gopalaiah, supported the claim.
BJP aims to reach larger audience via play and movie
Not just politically, the BJP has apparently been making attempts to engage people through the media as it is backing a play based on the story told in the book Tipu Nijakanasugalu (Real Dreams of Tipu). The state's Horticulture Minister Munirathna, a producer-turned-politician, also announced a film on the subject, stating that his studio was registering "Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda" as the title.
Vokkaliga seer steps in, film project on community chieftains dropped
As the issues heated up, Nirmalanandanatha Mahaswamiji, the head pontiff of Sri Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana Math—highly esteemed by Vokkaligas—intervened on Monday and urged an end to the conflict. He emphasized that there was a lack of historical evidence. The seer also summoned Munirathna and told him not to proceed with the film project. Following the pontiff's advice, the minister dropped it.
Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai tight-lipped over the issue
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is facing anti-incumbency over several issues, especially corruption, has distanced himself from the controversy. When asked about the issue recently, he replied: "Research will show reality." State Health Minister Dr Sudhakar also remained tight-lipped when asked to comment on Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda recently. "I know only the former PM HD Devegowda," he said.
Congress-BJP face-off over Tipu Sultan row
So far, the Vokkaliga community supported the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular). Both parties argue that Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda are fictional figures. The BJP, on the other hand, appears to be using the duo as their latest mascots as it attempts to make inroads into the Vokkaliga-dominated "Old Mysuru" region ahead of the polls.
Who are the Vokkaligas?
'Vokkaliga' means a householder or a man who is settled permanently on land. The Vokkaliga community is a politically powerful community in Karnataka that has historically been defined by occupation, primarily cultivators and warriors. The community originates in Karnataka, in the former princely state of Mysore. Currently, they are seeking 12% reservation under Other Backward Class (OBC) in education and jobs.