Focus on Love Jihad, Not Small Issues Like Roads, Drains: BJP Karnataka Chief to Party Workers

Nalin Kateel's statement has drawn the opposition's ire, with the Congress accusing the BJP of creating communal strife to hide its governance failures.

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party’s Karnataka state president has said that party workers in the state should focus on the issue of “love jihad” before the assembly elections later this year, instead of “road, gutter, drain and other small issues”. Nalin Kateel’s statement has drawn the opposition’s ire, with the Congress accusing the BJP of creating communal strife to hide its governance failures.

Kateel made these remarks at the BJP’s ‘Booth Vijay Abhiyaan’ for cadre in Mangaluru on Monday (January 2). “I am asking you people – don’t speak about minor issues like road and sewage. If you are worried about your children’s future and if you want to stop ‘love Jihad’, then we need BJP for that. To get rid of love jihad, we need BJP,” he said as part of his speech intended to motivate booth-level workers.

The state unit president also lauded the Union government for banning the Popular Front of India. “Had the PFI not been banned, today we wouldn’t have BJP leaders Monappa Bhandary and Hari Krishna Bantwal (of Dakshina Kannada) on stage. MLA Vedavyas Kamath would not have been here. There would have only been a garland over their photos,” he alleged, claiming that the group had planned a “series of murders”.

The Congress hit out at the leader’s remarks immediately, saying this is the worst possible advice the party could give its workers and would only polarise society. The Karnataka Congress tweeted a video of Kateel’s speech with the message, “…Development of the state, employment and education are minor issues! It’s shameful that BJP has asked its party workers not to talk about development, of which it has done little.”

“This is the worst (reply). They are not looking at development, they are looking at hate, they are looking at dividing the country…That is why we are only looking at development,” D.K. Shivakumar, Karnataka Congress chief, reportedly said. “They are just playing people on emotion. We want jobs, we want that price rise should not affect people, we are worried about the daily living of people.”

In recent years, “love jihad” is a bogey often brought up by the BJP and its ideological affiliates, claiming that Muslim men are luring and forcing Hindu women into marriage to convert them. While no evidence has been found for such claims, several BJP-ruled states have brought in anti-love jihad laws; Hindu right-wing groups have demanded one in Karnataka too. Reports from states including Uttar Pradesh have brought out that these laws are largely used to harass interfaith couples and put Muslim men behind bars.