Karnataka election: How civil society played a crucial role to defeat hate

Around 5,000 volunteers belonging to more than 112 different organisations formed a movement which was called, "Eddelu Karnataka" (Wake Up Karnataka)

By M Sridhar  Published on  31 May 2023 9:30 AM GMT
Civil society in Karnataka played a crucial role to defeat hate through Eddelu Karnataka (Wake Up Karnataka) movement.

Hyderabad: During Karnataka Election, civil society organizations (CSOs) played a key role to defeat hate. Around 5,000 volunteers belonging to more than 112 different organisations formed a movement which was called, "Eddelu Karnataka" (Wake Up Karnataka).

The associations or organizations came together and fought against the strategies of the political parties. With the result, Congress won in Karnataka. They did not argue with the public, or campaign against any party, but just asked the people to wake up.

Kannada writer and activist Devanuru Mahadeva said they were more than worrying about who will win the elections. "We will continue our fight for the betterment of the public," he added.

As part of the campaign, the forum conducted a series of zonal, district, and constituency-level workshops, a month before the elections, conducting almost 110 workshops.

Their intervention opened new vistas for positive politics, secularism, and peace. They did not talk about `Operation Kamala’ i.e. the dubious defection drama practiced by one major party, followed by judicial interventions that involve a legal interplay of words and bizarre interpretations in courtrooms with a selective use of constitutional means to whitewash criminal acts. Indeed, political manipulation has become an everyday play. One such political party, the Janata Dal (Secular), failed in a big way in the elections. The people of Karnataka rejected it. Dishonest game players were defeated.

Vinay Kumar, an aerospace engineer and activist joined several associations. Their common aim was to fight against the ideology of hatred and bigotry in the state. "We had been discussing the unity factor for more than two years. However, there was very little time before the elections when we started," a teacher and an activist with Eddelu Karnataka said.

In the last six months, the forum achieved what was earlier thought to be difficult. The people of this association listened to the people intensely. They put forth the real issues confronting them. They fought against the powerful politics of bigotry orchestrated by communal forces that were stoking the issues around the hijab, azaan, and ‘love jihad’ to name a few.

The campaign also released a booklet exposing BJP’s misrule and 2 songs for the campaign. Yogendra Yadav had pointed out that the decisive victory for Congress in Karnataka will open the door of hope to the entire opposition in the country.

Prof. Haragopal said that the campaign generated live discussion and debate within civil society during elections and won people over. More than 100 people from various social groups worked together for six months, held 250 workshops, met people in 103 constituencies, formed 192 groups, and over 2,000 workers campaigned among voters. They collected data from 41,000 families, distributed 650 posters, and produced 80 videos.

Journalist Hameed Ashraf of News Trail wrote that while the politicians were busy trying to woo the voters, a mega pre-poll survey was conducted between March 13 and April 21 by a Kannada media outlet, Eedina, which correctly predicted the Congress' vote percentage at 43 percent.

Miffed with the reports, the BJP leaders had called it bogus. According to Basavaraj, a teacher and an activist who was actively involved in the survey, almost 33 percent of the respondents considered the Basavaraj Bommai-led government to be the most corrupt in recent times.

"The sample size was the largest among different surveys at 41,169, during which we recorded some major findings. The people were unhappy with the government," he added.

Dalit factions, farmers, and the splinter groups were greatly concerned that their communities have been divided over personal issues and ideological differences. The effort to bring the factions together started with the ‘Dalithara Samskruthika Prathirodha’ on December 6, 2022, which joined Eddelu Karnataka later.

Prof Haragopal explained that around 100 meetings with journalists were organized, and more than 50 dharnas involving farmers, labor, Dalits, women, students, and tribals were organized. The campaign quietly spread to 151 taluk areas in 31 districts. It was a distinctive campaign to raise voter consciousness against the communal agenda, divisive politics, and hate campaigns. Their commitment could not be questioned. One lakh pamphlets were printed and distributed. They were not political leaders but simple workers. They awakened civil society and supported democracy, the Constitution, and the unity of the people.

News Trail newspaper also said Indidhar Honnapura, coordinator of a 14-member committee `Dalitha Sangharsha Samithigala AikyaHorata Chalana Samiti’, which include activists from the DSS.

He explained: “We approached the Dalit voters with a specific agenda and tried to convince them not to vote for the BJP or the Janata Dal (Secular). The community was feeling insecure after several cultural and legal challenges that were thrown at by the BJP government".

Surprising fast other groups such as Bahutva Karnataka, Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, State Trade Unions, OBC Federation, and Muslim and Christian organizations, joined the Eddelu Karnataka team. They enrolled more than 1.5 lakh votes.

We cannot ignore the role of the Congress party. Eddelu Karnataka has scripted new slogans like "Votes should not be wasted," "Votes should not be divided" and "Vote for the candidate who can defeat the BJP."

Generally, all the known political parties put up some candidates to ensure that the votes of particular candidates are split. But this time, civil society groups met 49 candidates, negotiated over several weeks, and successfully convinced them to withdraw from the contest so that the votes did not split to defeat candidates with a communal agenda. This was no mean achievement. They knew the strategies of splitting votes and ‘purchasing’ elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The campaign has grasped election politics and mastered the art of getting to know the public pulse in the elections.

"Politics itself had sulked to an unprecedented low. We had to find a solution based on reality," said Yusuf Kanni, a teacher by profession. "It was the high time for the people in Karnataka to stand with each other and reclaim the constitution, and realize what a truly great republic we stand to lose if we choose to remain silent," said Vinay Kumar, an activist.

Campaigning for voter awareness, the forum pointed out that the enrollment of voters was of prime importance. Due to the efforts of the volunteers, more than 1.58 lakh voters including 1,10,000 Muslims and 48,000 Christians were re-enrolled, who were missing from the voters list.

Karnataka election results stand testimony to the fact that this foundation can't be destroyed that easily by the forces of hatred and bigotry. In that sense, the return of the Congress also means the return of the Indian Republic and Indian democracy, activists from the forum said.

Next Story