New Delhi The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) central leadership has asked leaders to refrain from making provocative and inflammatory statements and speaking out of line after taking note of the disquiet brewing in certain state units over some leaders deviating from the party’s stance on issues.
According to two functionaries aware of the details, in states such as Telangana, Tamil Nadu and poll-bound Karnataka, some recent comments by senior leaders, including some state unit chiefs, were criticised for being disparaging towards some caste groups, genders and faiths.
“There is also concern that polarising statements and rabble-rousing may impact the party’s electoral fortunes in states such as Karnataka where the party is facing intense competition from the Congress as the two parties are eyeing the same vote bank,” said a senior party leader, requesting anonymity.
In Karnataka, comments by national general secretary CT Ravi about ticket distribution earlier this week raised eyebrows. Reacting to reports that former chief minister and Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra would contest from his Shikaripura constituency, Ravi told reporters that tickets will be decided by the party and not individuals.
“Both Vijayendra and his brother Raghavendra reacted to Ravi’s statements which gave the impression that the party leaders are fighting. His statement has the potential to alienate the Lingayat community that plays a key role in determining election results, so the central leadership’s disapproval has been conveyed to Ravi,” the party leader quoted above said.
National general secretary and in-charge of the state, Arun Singh on Thursday asserted that there is no infighting and the state unit, including former CM Yediyurappa and current CM Basavaraj Bommai “will fight as a cohesive unit”.
Leaders from the Karnataka unit also complained about recent statements by state president and long-term Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member Nalin Kumar Kateel, said people aware of developments. Kateel had stoked a row for asserting in January that the upcoming assembly election will be fought on ideological issues such as “love jihad” and “Tipu Vs Savaakar” even though the party leadership had earlier said that development will be the focus of the campaign. Kateel, who has been the state unit chief since 2019, is considered close to BJP general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh.
“There is a section of leaders in the state who think his penchant for being seen as a champion of the Hindutva ideology is at cross purposes with the party’s overall development narrative. After he spoke about the Tipu vs Savarkar contest, (former CM) BS Yediyurappa was forced to issue a statement distancing the party from the narrative,” said a second leader, requesting anonymity.
In Telangana, which goes to polls later in the year, there is consternation in some quarters against state unit chief Bandi Sanjay over his recent comments. Last week, party leaders, including lawmaker Arvind Dharmapuri, condemned Bandi’s remarks against Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K Kavitha.
“There are instances galore when Bandi left the party embarrassed. He threatened filmmaker Rajamouli that his film RRR would not be screened in the state; he made an outrageous comment about digging up mosques to see if they came up on corpses or shivlings and made violent remarks about Ramcharitramanas being played on hearses,” said a Telangana state leader, requesting anonymity.
A section of leaders also complained that Bandi’s statements deflect attention from issues that the party focuses on. “When the party was preparing for bypolls in Munugode assembly constituency last year, he got arrested hours before polling, so the entire focus was shifted from the poll to the president. Ahead of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls, while the party said it will give cover damages to property and vehicles affected by the floods, he said these would be covered by insurance,” said the state leader cited above.
In Tamil Nadu, too, there is some unease in the state unit and several leaders have raised questions about state BJP chief K Annamalai. Recently, five office-bearers quit the party to join the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) after lashing out Annamalai. “Instead of finding a resolution to the complaints of the cadre, he (Anamalai) said the party will grow only when people leave, and new ones get opportunities. The statement further escalated friction in the state unit,” said a fourth party leader, requesting anonymity.
Annamalai’s statement that he was leader and not a manager was also perceived to be a jibe at his party colleagues.