When the BJP government labeled the three decades-old quota arrangement a “municipal reserve” and scrapped it as “unconstitutional” ahead of the election, Congress proactively reached out to Muslim bodies, from civil society to student organizations and to community organizations, urging them to exercise restraint.
A key congressman from Karnataka confided that the party had communicated to Muslim bodies that any reaction from them would only help the BJP plan. Instead, Congress reportedly offered them a deal: It would reinstate the quota if it came to power. The absence of protests helped Congress avoid the volatile minority issue during the campaign. This has also helped her stay focused on her populist promises and the failings of the BJP’s handout.
Indeed, the antennas of Congress were out for the smallest possible signals suggesting polarization.
When Modi’s magic and Hindutva failed: Here’s what the BJP can learn from the Karnataka thrashing
When BJP made an issue of Rajya Sabha MP and the nomination of poet Imran Pratapgarhi as campaign star by posting an old video of his meeting and praising slain mafia don and public representative AtiqAhmed, Congress quietly called for the young face of the minority to withdraw from the electoral arena. It must have been tough for the head of the minority department of the AICC, which is a mandatory feature in any election campaign for his oratory and his appeal.
In the election minefield, it made no sense to argue that everyone, until recently, met Ahmed, who was a former MLA and UP MP, and Allahabad strongman. A potential flare-up was quietly shut down.
Prudence was so strong that party’s key activist Siddaramaia he skipped the coastal region, which is prone to polarization. As a former CM, he has been mired in some controversy over the BJP’s allegations that he eats beef and also his uninhibited “secular” stance on issues and attacks on Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal.
Although it is widely believed that the mention of a Bajrang Dal ban in the party manifesto was designed to consolidate minorities in the Old Mysuru region away from rival JD(S), the party did a quick rethink after initiating a controversy with Prime Minister Modi who compares the promise of the manifesto to the ban on Lord Hanuman. Party leaders went out of their way to praise ‘Bajrang Bali’ and even recounted the number of temples they had built for Hanuman.