Image Courtesy: thehindustangazette.com
BJP MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal known for his anti-Muslim stance has sparked a row over his comments comparing Muslims in the state to Tipu Sultan. While addressing a rally in Vijayapura, keeping the Assembly elections in mind, Yatnal raised the Tipu Sultan discourse again.
“All MLAs ask me, in your constituency there are one lakh Tipu Sultans (Muslim votes) how a Shivaji Maharaj descendant won from Bijapur. Going forward in Bijapur, none of the followers of Tipu Sultan will win. Even by mistake you should not cast your votes for Muslims,” he said in Kannada.
Congress MLC Nagaraj Yadav condemned these remarks, “Polarising votes like this is unconstitutional. Calling Muslim voters Tipu Sultan is very wrong, Yatnal should be debarred from contesting elections,” he said.
In 2018, he had made shocking comments on Muslim voters, “I never asked Muslims to vote for me, I had faith in Hindus that they would vote for me,” he says in the video. Clearly biased in his approach, he further adds, “Hindus are the one who ensured my win in the elections. I will work to develop the Hindu community, not the Muslims.” He had also said that elections were a “war between Hindus and Muslims”.
Why the controversy around Tipu Sultan?
The legacy of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of erstwhile kingdom of Mysore has been contested often by warring political parties, especially when Assembly elections are around.
Tipu is recorded in history as being a tyrant and rebels and conspirators were dealt with an iron hand in those times. The punishments Tipu applied to rebels or conspirators included the forced conversion and the transfer of people from their home territories to Mysore, reported Indian Express. BJP’s narrative against Tipu banks on his militarism and his perceived attack on Hindu rulers and subjects. However, historian Kate Brittlebank, author of ‘Tiger: The Life of Tipu Sultan’ said that while he undoubtedly ordered forced conversions in areas he annexed, Tipu also patronised various temples and Hindu shrines, including the Sri Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna and the Math in Sringeri, wrote the publication in its article.
Tipu and his life has been used by the politics of the day as per their convenience as at one point he was celebrated as a ruler who valiantly fought against the British and currently, the far-right focus more on his autocratic ways and forced conversions of annexed regions as well as his religious identity. Precisely why the BJP refers to Muslim as Tipu Sultan’s supporters.
BJP’s comments on Tipu
Karnataka BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel , on February 15, said that supporters of Tipu Sultan should be chased away to the forests and “only those who perform bhajans of Ram” should remain “in this land”. He had also termed the upcoming Assembly elections as a war of ideologies of Vinayak Savarkar and Tipu Sultan, implying BJP versus Congress.
On February 11, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while attending an event in communally polarised Dakshina Kannada said, “Should the Congress and JDS which pay respect to Tipu [Sultan] be given votes? Or should the votes be given to the BJP which respects Rani Abakka (a local queen who fought the Portuguese in the 16th century)?”
On Sunday, some right wing organisations in the state demanded the Tipu Sultan circle in Yadgir district be renamed as ‘Savarkar Circle’. Until Monday, section 144 was imposed in Yadgir to avoid any untoward incidents. On February 22, pro-Hindu organisation Shivaji Maharaj Sangathan alleged that supporters of Tipu Sultan named a circle after him in 2010 unofficially, reported Hindustan Times
Last year, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had said that the people of the State wouldn’t forgive Congress leaders for displaying a soft corner for terrorists and for talking about Tipu Sultan in order to appease the minority vote bank, reported Siasat.